Expression in Syria

Syria has now become the most dangerous place on Earth to be a journalist.The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the deaths of 399 media personnel at the hands of the Syrian authorities between 2011 and 2015. Many more remain in prison or have been forcibly disappeared. These media personnel were subjected to a pattern of unlawful arrest, enforced disappearance, torture and death that have befallen so many individuals accused of ‘terrorism’ or plotting to destabilise the state and its regime. International journalists have also become victims. Counter-Terrorism Law No.19 has been used by the Syrian State to justify a widespread campaign of arrests, including against free-expression advocates Hussein Ghrer, Hani Al-Zaytani and Mazen Darwish who were arrested in 2012 and held in appalling conditions for over three years. The cases of television director Bilal Ahmad Bilal, software engineer and Internet freedom advocate Bassel Khartabil, Nabil Shurbaji and citizen journalist Mohammed Abdel-Mawla Al-Hariri, who all remain in detention, are also emblematic of the government’s brutal repression of the right to free expression in Syria. The effects of this campaign of violence on free expression are widespread self-censorship and the closure of most independent news sources in Syria. Although social media sites like Facebook remain accessible in Syria, the Internet is used by the government as a tool to track down activists and carry out mass surveillance over the Syrian population.