In William A. Rugh’s classification in Arab Mass Media (2004) Syrian press is characterized as mobilization press, meaning that Syrian media do not criticize the basic policies of the national government, especially foreign policies, and domestic policy. Although the Syrian constitution provides for free speech, in effect it is severely restricted by the government. Criticism of the president, his family, the Baath-party, and the military is not allowed. Syrian journalists are “in effect employees of the Baath party, with a mission to perpetuate its ideology”.
The three state-owned Arabic dailies are Al-Baath, Al-Thawra, and Teshreen. There exist regional state-owned dailies in Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, Hama, Homs, and Lattakia. There is one English daily, linked to Teshreen. Independent press does not exist on a daily basis, while there are very few weeklies and periodicals, other than official publications of political parties. Since basher al-Asad there was a slight relaxation, resulting in the publication of new titles, the Abyad wa Aswad weekly, the business weekly Al-Iqtissadiya, and a satirical publication Al-Domari.
Television in Syria is dominated by the General Organization of Radio and Television Syria that operates domestic terrestrial and satellite television channels. The use of satellite receivers is permitted and viewers have access to foreign television broadcasts.
The General Organization of Radio and Television Syria runs three state-run radio channels. Since 2005 seven licenses have been issued for independent radio stations. However, these stations are not allowed to broadcast news or political topics.
Internet in Syria started in 1998. Since then all main media publish have developed websites and publish online versions. In 2005 an independent electronic news website was launched, Champress. There are two state-run Internet providers. In 2005 the first private Internet provider was launched, later followed by another. The State censors the Internet and routinely blocks access to various websites. The use of Internet is growing rapidly in Syria. In 2005 there were nearly 1,1 million Internet users but still very low compared to the total population.
Syria’s only news agency, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), was established in 1965 and is run by the government and linked to the Ministry of Information.
The Syrian Journalist Union is strongly linked to the government. Its constitution states that it has to promote the goals of the Baath party. All journalists must be members of the union in order to work in their profession. The Union is overseen by the Ministry of Information.
In 2005 a press freedom group established itself in Syria: Hurriyat – The National Center for the Defense of Press and Journalism Freedom in Syria. They have a website with articles, reports etc.
Media policies, development, and trends
After Bashar al-Asad became president a new press law was introduced in 2001. The law allows run private owned press and private radio broadcasting 2002, but implementation is slow. The Prime Minister is in charge and in power of licensing publications. A number of independent periodicals were published since the introduction of the law.