The historically vibrant Syrian press shows the unfortunate symptoms of four decades of tight state control on all aspects of political life and the effects of the one-party monopoly on producing and communicating information. Thus, the current renaissance of the cultural life and especially media production – with the wide popularity of TV-series all over the Arab world as its most salient aspect – has stopped short from invigorating the press, which remains totally owned and controlled by the state and the Baath Party. It is nevertheless worth noting that the increasingly wide-spreading internet has encouraged the alternative production and circulation of news, mainly through blogs.
Did you know?
The first illustrated Arab newspaper was published in Damascus in 1911 and was called Al Nafakha, (The Whistler).
The Great Arab reformer Al Kawakibi was the first Syrian to publish an Arabic newspaper, first called The Epithet of Aleppo and later renamed The Moderation. The title The Epiteth of Aleppo reflects how the early Arab press borrowed titles then common in Europe, while The Moderation expressed the old tradition in Arab modernity against the now widespread extremism.
Language: Arabic Established: 2006 Published weekly
A privately owned weekly, which appears Sundays, Abyad wa Aswad, which means Black and White, strives to cover the issues of bad governance, lack of planning and corruption that plague the Syrian society, all the while stopping short from criticizing the top echelon of the ruling elite, especially president Bachar Asad and his family. Abyad wa Aswad puts a special focus on economic affairs and is often critical of the slow pace of the economic liberalization and modernization, which president Asad made his top priority when he came into power in year 2000.
Language: Arabic Established: 2000 Published weekly
One of the first privately owned publications to appear in Syria, this business weekly is published by the same house as the daily Al Watan. More than the other privately owned publications allowed to appear in the years since Bachar Asad took over power from his father in 2000, Al Iqtissadiyah combines a critical attitude towards the lack of progress in the economic and social spheres with a clear support of the regime's national and foreign policies. Al Iqtissadiyah's well-known relations to the ruling elite make observers scrutinize its blunt editorials, especially those taking to task Syria's 'enemies' in Lebanon and the Arab world, to find out the political views of the regime.
Language: Arabic Established: 1963 Published daily
The official newspaper of the Syrian government, Al Thawra extensively covers governmental initiatives in the social and economic areas. Most importantly, Al Thawra’s co-ops, formulated in a politically correct nationalist jargon, reflect the official stance of the ruling elite.
Language: Arabic Established: 2006 Published daily
One of the new privately owned newspapers allowed to appear in the last few years by the Syrian authorities, Al Watan puts a special focus on the tense Lebanese-Syrian relations and on other regional conflicts such as the wide Israeli-Arab one and the war in Iraq. In spite of its nominal independence, the co-ops of Al Watan written by in-house columnists closely follow the Syrian official line: they are nationalist, vehemently anti-Israeli and systematically critical of the West, especially the USA and its Arab allies. Al Watan has a good website.