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Wed 15 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Syrian media may enjoy greater freedom

Syria’s ruling Baath Party is considering ending a state monopoly over the broadcast media and allowing more independent publications.

Syria’s ruling Baath Party is considering ending a state monopoly over the broadcast media and allowing more independent publications. The party is also mulling creating a supervisory body to lift the standards of the tightly-controlled domestic media.

"More than one entry in deliberations has highlighted the importance of having the private (sector) media take part in written, radio and visual media," Buthaina Shaaban, Expatriates Minister and party congress spokeswoman told the press at a news conference. She added that members of the congress emphasised the need for ‘the private (sector) media to assume a key role in the future’.

Since President Bashar al-Assad assumed power in 2000, the state has allowed the existence of some magazines such as Abyad wa Aswad, which has offered a measure of criticism of the government. Syria has also allowed private radio stations, but they are limited to cultural and entertainment programming. The country does not censor reports by foreign media operating on its territory, but international watchdogs like Reporters sans Frontiers have long complained about the lack of media freedom.

As part of these efforts, the party’s new body will supervise media outlets and improve the performance and professionalism of the country's media outlets. However, it is currently not clear how the creation of a council will affect the role of the country's information ministry as Syria has long relied on state-run media to inform the public.

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