Syria, or known as Syrian Arab Republic, is an Arabian country located near Lebanon. Syria has been unstable mostly because of the Israel dispute with Arab, but this has not stopped the growth of internet in the country. Since the country mainly relies on foreign trades and transportation as its main source of economical support.
ITU (International Telecommunication Union) reported that as of March 2008, an approximate of 2,132,000 internet users are available within Syria, which is an approximate of 10.8% of the population in Syria itself. This is a substantial amount in comparison with most country within that area. With that said, internationally Syria is still considered to be slow in its internet growth. This is mostly due to the fact that internet is expensive and that only an estimation of 4% of the population having a personal computer, most of which are sharing computers.
The censorship status within Syria is serious and unlike most country, Syria is considered to be a very strict country for internet access. Under the ONi’s (OpenNet Information) research, Syria is considered to be a pervasive category and under RSF’s (Reporters without Borders) Internet-enemy’s listing. Even under the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) listing, Syria appeared at the second most dangerous and worse place to be a blogger.
Since the political standings of Syria is fragile, internet censorship in Syria is mainly political based and consequences from disobeying or accessing such sites are usually heavy. Sites like youtube.com or blogger.com listings are blocked and also for sites with Arabian languages such as the Arabic version of Wikipedia.org as reported by AN@SONLINE recently. This reflects the seriousness of the government, under the leadership of the Baath Party’s Leader, Bashar al-Assad. Even political sites which are opposing the current government party are blocked entirely and users who wish to access blocked sites require specific knowledge.
As reported through Oni’s freelance watchdogs, plain-shirted officers are even watching local cybercafés taking note of suspicious visitors and closing down suspected cybercafés. Even specific personal connections such as VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and emails are monitored in fear of spreading opposing political complaints or views. Though with that said, foreign news and other simpler education websites are still available. Site which promotes homosexuality and lesbianism are surprisingly available to the public, hinting that the government are focusing more on political issues rather than sexual contents, with the exceptions of pornography sites and gaywired.com.
With blocks and penalties that threaten the very existence of bloggers and internet writers from Syria, one might expect that reporters and writers are rare in Syria. This is proven incorrect as there are still many cautious member of the blogosphere from that particular region. And with the availability of emails, the internet users of Syria are open to receive news from foreign country with the exception of their emails being filtered by the government’s main servers.
If you are going to use email, make sure to use a web based US or foreign email provider and do not download emails to your computer. This is a big NO NO. Using a VPN service will secure your connection and keep you anonymous.