For almost a decade, Syria has been ravaged by civil wars. Practicing independent journalism was already difficult before, and now it is even more. Syria's media landscape is one of the most censored in the world and the country currently ranks 171 out of 180 countries on the RSF Press Freedom Index.
After repeated attempts, the last round for the peace process stranded once again in February 2021. 45 delegates from different regions attempted to draft the new Syrian constitution, with little success. For many Syrians, this impasse is just another setback. The stagnation perpetuated divisions across the country. Meanwhile, journalists are trying to circumvent regional powers or to operate in exile. The economic sanctions of the USA, among others, has also led to divisions in the media landscape. Some voices reap the benefits, while others suffer.
There are major socio-economic and political differences, not only in the country but also in the Syrian media sector. Due to the current situation, it does not look like there will be any change in the near future. The result is a catch-22 situation: strong, independent media are needed to give access to correct and verified information and fight hate speech and corruption. But at the same time, instability, uncertainty and the lack of democracy and freedom limit the development and growth of these media.
Safety of journalists during conflicts
A Syrian journalist is generally at high risk of being arrested, kidnapped or murdered. Since the conflict began in 2011, 152 journalists and media representatives have been killed. Unfortunately, there is no change in sight. Several parties involved in the conflict put large amounts of money into the media, resulting in biased coverage. It therefore remains crucial to support the local development of (social) media for disadvantaged groups, so that they can report on the real situation in Syria.
Our work in Syria
The Co-Production Small Grant Fund (CpF) programme is an example of an inclusive and problem-solving approach to the situation in Syria. Here, cooperation between civil society organisations and media channels is encouraged. In this way, they can pull together in the social debate and, where possible, strengthen each other's voices, in order to find solutions and continue to work towards peace.
Free Press Unlimited works with and supports various media institutions and media outlets within this programme with financial support from the Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation and the European Union.
In October 2021, the Ethical Journalism for Syrian Media (EJSM) programme came to an end after five years of supporting the re-emerging Syrian media sector, with the aim to strengthening their institutions and make their foundations more sustainable. Despite the violent conflict and the horrible conditions many great initiatives on the ground could survive and flourish. This programme helped these initiatives to grow to keep providing Syrians access to reliable information.
To capture the past five years, the program’s carriers Free Press Unlimited and Synergy-Takamol, wanted to visually document key outcomes of the journey that they walked through with partners and actors on the ground. Therefore a website was created where the impact of the programme is illustrated in seven personas that tell a story per thematic focus of the programme.
Photo: David Axe