Reporters Without Borders

Regime steps up information war

Regime steps up information war

Published on Tuesday 12 July 2011.
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The Syrian authorities are stepping up their efforts to control the Internet and to harass those who are using the various online social networks to rally support for anti-government protests and to provide news and information.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of the blogger Anas Al-Marawi in the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Kafr Soussa on 1 July. Marawi is the founder of Ardroid, the first Arab website to specialize in the Android system. His personal blog, An@s Online, is mainly about technical subjects and contains few entries of a political nature. He also contributes to other technical blogs. Nothing is known of his whereabouts since his arrest.

The government-controlled cyber-army, which harasses dissidents on online social networks, seems to have stepped up its activities in recent days. Web pages that support the demonstrations and call for a democratic system are being flooded with pro-Assad messages. To discredit the uprising, messages calling for violence are also being posted on the pages of government opponents, who are then accused of being the authors.

According to Agence France Presse, the cyber-army aims to make up for the shortcomings of the official media and to wage an information war targeted at Syrians both at home and abroad.

Aqiba Al-Batah, a reporter from the eastern city of Deir Ez-Zor who works for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Hadath (The Event), was also arrested during the demonstrations in Damascus. He has been charged with collaborating with foreign entities.

There is still no news of Omar Al-Assad, a journalist and activist who was arrested on 3 July as he attended a demonstrator’s funeral in Al-Qaddam, a southwestern suburb of the capital. Born in 1987, he is studying journalism at Damascus University and has been working for several publications including the dailies As-Safir and Al-Hayat and the satellite TV station Al-Jazeera since the start of the protests.

Reporters Without Borders demands the immediate and unconditional release of all the detained journalists and bloggers and an end to the attacks on opposition websites.

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