Reporters Without Borders

Predators


Bashar Al-Assad, President

Since the start of popular protests in mid-March 2011, brutality towards civilians, including those working in the media, has continued to increase. Bashar Al-Assad and his government have imposed a total information blackout while promoting their own propaganda. The Syrian predator and his cronies are waging an information war, using disinformation as a weapon.

Journalists, bloggers, citizens and activists-turned-journalists pay daily for their commitment to exposing atrocities. Thirteen have been killed in the course of their work since the start of the uprising, including four foreign reporters.

Syrian journalists, bloggers and activists are regularly followed, arrested and tortured. Many are unaccounted for. Ordinary citizens who have had contact with foreign news organizations are also targeted. More than 30 professional and amateur media workers are behind bars.

For the foreign media, visas have virtually dried up. The carefully chosen few who receive an entry permit are flanked by mukhabarat (intelligence service) agents and have no freedom of movement. Most of the others take their lives in their hands enter the country illegally. In March this year, the information minister openly threatened to take steps against Arab and foreign media organizations and their correspondents who entered Syria illegally, and against anyone who worked with them.

On the Web, the cyber army responsible for tracking cyber dissidents on social networking sites has redoubled its activities. Its members flood Web pages and sites supporting the demonstrators with pro-Assad messages. Twitter accounts have been created to interfere with information provided by the hashtag #Syria.

The cyber army also seeks to discredit the popular uprising by posting appeals for violence on the pages of government opponents and pretending they are the work of protesters. In order to monitor dissidents, the authorities obtain their personal details using phishing techniques by creating fake login pages on Facebook and Twitter.

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