As the world celebrated the World Press Freedom Day, which marked the 3rd of May, to introduce the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to highlight the violations against journalists in many countries of the world, Syria –one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists– goes through an attempt to produce a new free press amid the ravages of the three-year-old crisis.
Even though some observers point out that the Syrian press “lacks objectivity and professionalism”, it yet has a “promising future” according to others.
Mohammed Saeed Qassas, a journalist who works for Zaytun Newspaper which is published in Syria’s Idlib province, expressed his beliefs about the Syrian press saying: “The problems of journalism in Syria are the manifestation of the lack of a clear vision amid the current conflict, the state of division and the political ideological positioning which negatively affects the freedom of opinion and expression.”
“There are no sufficient numbers of trained journalists who could demonstrate objectivity and professionalism. Furthermore, the majority of the Syrian society haven’t had the chance to realize the importance of the existence of a free press for the process of a political change in Syria,” Qassas added.
Speaking to ARA News, Syrian researcher and journalist, Mansour al-Omari, said that the free press work started with “the beginning of the Syrian revolution” and constituted an essential part of it, and it countered the work of the “Syrian government’s media outlets which sought to conceal the reality on the ground”.
“Therefore, the Syrian activists were also motivated to get involved in providing news and confront the pro-Assad and government-owned media outlets,” al-Omari said. “The intensive media activism carried out by the Syrian pro-revolution activists led to an increase in the margin of freedom in terms of providing news and dealing with the events.”
According to al-Omari, the freedom of press in areas which are outside of the government control is at its highest levels, except for areas which fall under the control of the Qaeda splinter group of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and areas controlled by the Kurdish military and security forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Al-Omari attributed the existence of a free press in Syria to the “availability of financial support from several parties which helped creating many magazines and newspapers, and even radio and TV stations”.
“However, the effectiveness of the role of media in the Syrian crisis is varying. considering that the existence of a free press is new in Syria and because of the arbitrary financing of non-professionals,” al-Omari told ARA News. “At the same time, I think that the work of the media in Syria is developing and will most likely reach the aspired levels of objectivity and professionalism.”
As for Kamal Oskan, member of the Syrian Kurdish Journalists Union and an editor at Suwar Magazine, Syrian journalism “had a difficult reality before the start of the crisis in 2011 due to the prevailing state-run media and censorship. However, it has to endure more difficulties amid the continuous crisis”.
Oskan attributed that to the “collapse of the state” and the existence of different forces which are in control on the ground and which prevent the entry of journalists and media outlets.
“There are also difficulties in obtaining information because most of the new media outlets work outside Syria and journalists aren’t able to provide news easily, as they are being targeted by all the parties amid the conflict,” Oskan told ARA News.
Oskan expressed his beliefs that the future of the Syrian press “isn’t promising due to the killing, kidnapping and detention of journalists”.
“If the parties in the conflict fail to reach a political solution, the fate of the Syrian press will remain in the hands of the armed groups,” said Oskan.
Welat Eli, an editor at Orient News TV, expressed his views regarding the lack of consistency of the media work in Syria, saying: “Despite the fact that many Syrian journalists lack experience and professionalism, the work of the media in Syria is much better than before the start of the revolution. The freedom of expression didn’t exist in Syria for decades, and journalists were not allowed to work freely.”
“However, the main obstacle which the journalists have to face is the existence of armed groups which are in control on the ground and which try to force journalists to comply with their goals and priorities, and which have on many occasions expelled, killed and detained journalists and news providers,” Eli said in an interview with ARA News.
According to Farhad Hamo, correspondent of the Kurdish Rudaw TV in the northeastern Syrian city of Amuda, the work of the media in Syria is “very bad” as it was only permitted for the state-run journalists and no other media establishments ever had the permission to operate in the country.
“Although many TV stations started to operate in Syria, they were unable to demonstrate professionalism due to the absence of press freedoms and the mounting security constraints,” Hamo told ARA News.
Despite the many obstacles Syrian journalists face, Hamo expressed his beliefs about the aspired promising future of journalism in Syria, saying: “Syrian journalists have gained a lot of experiences and we have now so many of them, and several media establishments have been founded recently. The Syrian people are not afraid of talking to media outlets anymore.”
Reporting by: Redwan Bizar and Zara Sayda
Source: ARA News
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