Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Syria Media Law 'Reform': No Confusing Assad with James Madison

President Hafez al-Asad with his family in the...Image via WikipediaEmbattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took time out Sunday from unleashing his army against his citizenry to repeal Legislative Decree No. 108 that authorized jailing journalists for "attacking the prestige and dignity of  the state, national unity and the morale of the army," according to a post on the Jurist Website (

The measure also calls for creation of a cabinet-overseen National Council of Information to regulate the information industry. Lest readers include Assad among John Peter Zenger and other press freedom icons, Decree No. 108 does permit censorship of publications whose content "affects national unity and national security, incites sectarian strife, incites crimes or hatred or harms state symbols," or involves armed forces-related news, Jurist reports. Journalists still would be liable for defamation to the tune of $21,000 fines.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, earlier this summer denounced Syria for repressing journalism and free speech and for its human rights violations, so President Assad's makeover as First Amendment absolutist James Madison may face rough sledding ahead.

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