“Yesterday, less than a week after activists held a candlelight vigil in Damascus to show solidarity with protesters in Egypt, Syria’s authoritarian government ended a national ban on Facebook and YouTube.
But the jury is out on whether the move by Bashar al-Assad’s government was a legitimate effort to permit greater freedom of expression, a PR stunt or, worse, a means to monitor expressions of unrest.”
From The Washington Post
Posts tagged “Syria”
“The Syrian government began allowing its citizens Wednesday to openly use Facebook and YouTube, three years after blocking access to Facebook and other sites as part of a crackdown on political activism. Human rights advocates greeted the news guardedly, warning that the government might have lifted the ban to more closely monitor people and activity on social networking sites.
The move comes just weeks after human rights activists in Egypt used Facebook and other social media tools to help mobilize tens of thousands of people for antigovernment protests. Activists in Tunisia used the Internet in December and January to help amass support for the protests and revolt that toppled the government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.”
From The New York Times
“[JURIST] Syrian Internet users reported on Tuesday that social media sites Facebook [website; JURIST news archive] and YouTube [website; JURIST news archive] are accessible without proxy servers or VPNs. Syria appears to be lifting the ban imposed in 2007 as a concession to avoid popular upheaval [DP report] in Syria.”
“Syrian authorities are to lift a five-year ban on Facebook in a move seen as an apparent “appeasement” measure, aimed at staving off unrest in the country following recent political developments in Egypt and Tunisia.
In a rare and candid interview, President Bashar al-Assad told the Wall Street Journal last week that he would push through political reforms this year aimed at initiating municipal elections, granting more power to non-governmental organisations and establishing a new media law.”
From The Guardian
“Like Egypt, Syria has been ruled for decades by a single party, with a security service that maintains an iron grip on its citizens. Both countries have been struggling to reform economies stifled for generations by central control in an effort to curb unemployment among a ballooning youth demographic.
In Syria, where thousands of websites deemed opposed to state interests are blocked and where Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media are banned, authorities denied accusations they had restricted the service to prevent citizens hearing about events in Cairo.
Earlier this week, though, authorities banned programmes that allow access to Facebook Chat from mobile phones, a cheap and easy means of staying in touch that had exploded in popularity among young Syrians.”
“Syrian authorities have banned programmes that allow access to Facebook Chat from cellphones, tightening already severe restrictions on the Internet in the wake of the unrest in Tunisia.
Nimbuzz and eBuddy, two programmes that allow access to Facebook Chat and other messaging programmes through a single interface, no longer work in Syria.
The main Facebook page is also banned, but proxies allow Syrians to bypass the controls, with the chat function through cellphones gaining popularity, especially among the young.
“All indicators point downhill after the revolution in Tunisia. The policy of iron censorship has not changed,” said Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Media and Freedom of Expression Centre.”
“The Middle East’s modest window for dissent, created by a surge in blogging and online journalism over the past decade, looks poised to narrow with a raft of measures across the region.
A draft Internet law awaiting parliamentary approval in Syria is one such measure. The government says it would give a needed legal framework to online activity by forcing bloggers to register as union members, conferring rights such as a press card to online journalists for the first time, and potentially requiring content be withdrawn from websites.”