President Bashar Al-Assad approved changes to Syria’s media legislation that are part of a series of planned reforms intended to end anti-government protests.
The new law tries to give the impression that the media are being given more freedom. It opposes “any monopoly in the media sector,” scraps prison sentences for press offences and, in article 2, proclaims “freedom of expression” as a fundamental principle. It also declares an intention to facilitate access to information and prevent officials from denying access to certain kinds of data.
Article 12 nonetheless calls for “responsible freedom of expression” and bans any reporting that incites violence or sectarian divisions, or threatens national unity. It also bans any report about the armed forces, including the army. It provides no definition of these terms, leaving them vague and imprecise and thereby allowing a great deal of scope for arbitrary interpretation.