More censorship in the blogosphere from Syria
FOR “defaming and insulting the administrative bodies of the state”, the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, Mazen Darwish, was recently sentenced to a salutary ten days in jail. His real crime was to report on riots in an industrial town near Damascus, Syria’s capital. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based lobby, said his case brought the number of journalists and “cyber dissidents” imprisoned in Syria to seven.
Mr Darwish may have got off lightly. In May Tareq Bayassi, aged 24, was jailed for three years for publishing “false news” on the internet after being detained without trial for almost a year. “The real reason for the sentence,” says another lobby, the online Committee to Protect Bloggers, “was his having posted an article on the shortcomings of the Syrian secret service.”
For several years Syria has been an enemy of the internet. The security services keep opposition figures and even ordinary bloggers under surveillance. The main internet service-provider bans 100-plus websites. Most sites carping at President Bashar Assad’s government are silenced, as are many Kurdish and Islamist sites. A yellow screen flashes up with the words “Access Denied”.