Syria - Media
All communications facilities are owned and operated by the government, including postal service, telegraph, telephone, radio, and television. There were 1.3 million main telephone lines in use in 1997. cellular service was introduced in the country in 2000, but the cost has limited the number of subscribers to about two of every 1,000 people.
The Syrian Broadcasting Service transmits on medium wave and shortwave, and broadcasts in Arabic and 10 foreign languages. Syrian Arab TV has two stations. Altogether, there were 9 AM and 1 FM radio station in 1999, and 54 television stations. In 2000, Syria had 276 radios and 67 television sets in per 1,000 population. In 2001, there were 32,000 Internet subscribers served by one government-controlled and limited service provider.
Most Syrian newspapers are published by government ministries and popular organizations. Principal dailies in Arabic (with 2002 circulations) include Al-Ba'ath (40,000), published by the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party; Tishrin (50,000), and Al-Thawrah (40,000), all in Damascus. In 2000, the government authorized publication of the first private paper since 1963. That paper, The People's Voice, is published by the National Progressive Front (Communist Party). The Union Socialist Party has since published its own paper, The Unionist . A private satirical paper, The Lamplighter , has also been allowed, but has maintained content which is, for the most part, politically nonsensitive.
Though the constitution provides for free expression of opinion in speech and writing, in practice the government is reported to restrict these rights significantly. Written criticism of the president, the president's family, the Ba'ath party, the military, and the regime are not permitted.