DAMASCUS, (SANA)- President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday issued Legislative Decree No. 108 for 2011 on media law.
Rules of law no. 68 for 1951 on the main system of radio that are inconsistent with the new media law will be repealed, along with the 2001 publications law, law on communication with the public on the net of 2011 and the 2002 legislative decree on private commercial radios.
The executive instructions of the issued legislative decree will be issued by the Cabinet upon the proposal of the Information Minister after coordination with the National Council of Information.
The Main Principles
-Media with all their means should be independent and serve their message freely and are only restricted by the constitution and the law.
-Practice of the journalistic work is based on the following basic rules:
1. Freedom of expression, the main freedoms guaranteed in the constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic, the International Declaration of Human Rights and the relevant international agreements ratified by the Syrian government.
2. Citizen's right to access information related to public concern.
3. The national and pan-Arab values of the Syrian society, the responsibility in publishing knowledge, expressing the people's interests and protecting national identity.
Journalistic work through using the different media outlets should take into consideration the following principles:
1. Respecting freedom of expression which is to be practiced with responsibility and awareness.
2. Journalist's right to accessing and using information with considering the rules stated in the law.
3. Commitment to truth, integrity, honesty, accuracy and objectivity in publishing information.
4. Respecting the individuals' privacy, dignity and rights and abstaining from violating them in any way.
5. Respecting the Press Charter issued by the Journalists' Union.
6. Preventing monopoly of any media outlet.
The Rights and Duties
-The Journalist's freedom is secured by the law and the journalist's view should not be a reason to affect this freedom except in the limits of the law.
-It is not allowed for any part to ask the journalists to reveal his information sources except through the judiciary and in a secret session.
-The journalist has the right to searching for and accessing any kind of information from any party, as well as the right to publishing the information after verifying its accuracy, truth and the reliability of the sources as best as he can.
-The journalist has the right to attend the open public conferences, sessions and meetings and publish their minutes.
-The journalist has the right to analyzing and commenting on the information they get in a way that allows the receiver to distinguish between the analysis and comment and between the genuine facts.
-Any party can not impose restrictions that undermine equality of opportunity in accessing the information among the journalists.
-The parties and institutions interested in the public concern should facilitate the journalist's mission in accessing them and getting the information.
-The type of information the public parties have the right not to reveal are to be specified in a decision to be issued by the Cabinet.
--The public parties commit to responding to the journalist's request to access the information in 7 days of the day of the applied request. In case the party did not respond within this period, this is considered an implicit refusal. The administrative judiciary court is to look into the total or partial refusal to the request and give its decision in less than a month.
--Any attack on the journalist in the line of duty is considered an attack on public employee.
--Media outlets are prohibited from publishing the following:
1. Any content that affects national unity and national security, harms the holy religions and beliefs, or incites sectarian or confessional strife.
2. Any content that has to do with inciting crimes, acts of violence and terrorism and inciting hatred and racism.
3. The news and information related to the Army and the Armed Forces except those issued by the Army and the Armed Forces and permitted to be published.
4. All that is prohibited in the General Penal Code, the enforced legislations and all that is banned to be published by the courts.
5. All that harm the state's symbols.
-Journalists are not allowed to expose the private life of individuals. Criticizing and publishing information about people who are in charge with public services are not considered a violation of privacy.
-Journalists are not allowed to receive any money as reward or aid or any private advantages from any side aimed at influencing the journalist not to publish certain information.
-Journalists are not allowed to work in commercial advertisements or receive direct or indirect money through publishing advertisements.
-Media outlets are not allowed to receive donations or aid or any other advantages from foreign sides directly or indirectly.
-Any increase in advertisement fees published by a media outlet over the fees set for advertisements is considered as indirect aid.
-The National Council of Information specifies the rules for offering direct and indirect support to media outlets.
-The advertisement content should not exceed the percentage specified by the Council of the total published content.
-Media outlets allocate no less than 5 percent of advertisement for public benefit for free.
-Media outlets commit to preparing the books stated by the trade law. Those books will be subject to financial and administrative inspection in the presence of the owner of the media outlet.
The National Council of Information
A council titled "the National Council of Information" will be established in the Syrian Arab Republic enjoying legal personality and financial and administrative independence. The Council is linked to the cabinet, and it regulates the information sector according to this law.
-The council is composed of 9 members including the chairman and the deputy chairman who will be chosen according to experience in the field of media, communication and culture.
-All members of the council should be holder of the Syrian Arab citizenship.
The Council's Tasks: -- Protecting media freedom and freedom of opinion and expression.
-- Setting up the rules which organize the media sector according to this law.
-- Proposing suggestions and views on legislations related to the information sector and participating in implementing them.
-- Setting up conditions and studying applications for granting licenses for media outlets.
-- Boosting and regulating just competition in the information sector.
-- Participating in representing Syria at the Arab, regional and international countries, organizations and unions.
-- Preparing and publishing an annual report on the situation of the information sector.
-- Setting up the basics and mechanisms for accrediting the Arab and foreign correspondents and media outlets which want to practice media activity on the Syrian land.
-Media outlets commit, upon the request of the person concerned, to publishing reply and correction for what has been already published on that person.
Licensing and Accreditation
-Every person who meets the conditions required according to the rules has the right to establishing media outlets.
-Licenses are granted by a decision from the Council. Those whose applications for a license were turned down have the right to appeal to the administrative judiciary court.
-The license can only put into force after being ratified by the Cabinet.
-Editors-in-chief, journalists and the spokesman at a media outlet are held accountable for their actions which form an offense that are punishable according to this law.
-The owner of the media outlet is responsible, along with the editor-in- chief, and the journalist, for compensating for the harms caused to the others.
-The penalties for the violations committed by journalists or media outlets include fines.
-Other offenses that are not stated in this law are subject to the Penal Code and the enforced laws.
-In the cases of offenses committed by the journalist while he is on duty, with the exception of the case of flagrante delicto, the journalist should not be searched or detained or interrogated before informing the Council or the branch of the Journalists Union concerned to appoint a legal representative for the journalist.
Minister of Information: New Media Law Exemplary and Unprecedented in the Region, Achieves Interaction with Public Affairs, Protects Journalists' Rights
Minister of Information Dr. Adnan Mahmoud affirmed that the new media law marks a new stage in Syrian media, keeping up with contemporary mass media standards and the developments in communications and digital technology
In a statement to the press, Minister Mahmoud said that the new media law meets the needs of the Syrian public opinion, guarantees freedom of expression, enriches political life and social discourse, and develops democracy, stressing that law is exemplary and unprecedented in the region in terms of integration, covering all forms of mass media and protecting journalists' rights in parallel with their duties towards state and society.
The Minister said that the new law serves to link the media's priorities to the citizens' priorities and political, economic, social and development issues, achieving interaction with public affairs so that media serves as the people's eye on the performance of the government and state establishment to monitor its work and combat corruption.
He pointed out that the law involves establishing the National Media Council that is in charge of organizing the media sector, participating in drawing media policies, studying and approving the licensing of mass media, adding that this council is independent and has considerable authority and its own executive system and budget.
Minister Mahmoud said that the law will reflect positively on how general and private mass media performs by adhering to respecting the freedom of opinion and expression and the right to obtain information, affirming that the law will lead to growth in the media sector and improve its quality, creating competition among media establishments in addition to creating new job opportunities.
He stressed the need for mass media to take advantage of the momentum caused by the new law and restructure themselves to keep up with the comprehensive reform process in Syria, adding that the new media law will be in effect within a month, and that its executive instructions will be issued in coordination between the Ministry of Information and the National Media Council.
Minister Mahmoud said that journalists have much to prove and that they must develop their skills and reconsider their methods, affirming that his Ministry views national media in the context of keeping up with the requirements of the coming stage, adding that the new law prevents the monopoly of mass media by setting their ownership rates.
The Minister underlined the important role of local media and the need to develop and increase its interaction with the local community, calling for mass media to keep up with the new law in order to play an active and effective role in political, economic and social laws, adding that the laws calls for restructuring all the mass media existing currently in Syria.
He also called for establishing specialized media that addresses specific groups in the fields of culture, economy, development and health, particularly media aimed at youth who make up the bulk of the Syrian society, stressing the need to interact with youths using their own language, ideas and priorities.
Minister Mahmoud concluded by saying that the new media law integrates with the various laws and decrees of the comprehensive reform program.
Journalists: New Media Law is Modern, Opens Prospects for Diversity, Creativity and Competition
A number of journalists affirmed on Sunday that the new media law issued by Legislative Decree No. 108 for 2011 is an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of Syrian mass media, providing national media work with momentum and vitality.
In statements to SANA, journalists said that the new media law is very beneficial to Syrian journalists and that this modern law bolsters the role of media in public life, providing more venues for self-expression and carrying out media work in a free and independent manner.
Dean of the Media Faculty at Damascus University Dr. Nahla Issa said that the new media law broadens the prospect of freedom of expression and facilitates licensing new media establishments, adding that founding a national media council is the best way to manage media affairs as it treats government and private establishments equally.
Issa pointed out that allowing the establishing of private news agencies will give more momentum and vitality to national media since competition increases quality.
In turn, Executive Editor in Chief of the Economic magazine Hammoud al-Mahmoud said that the law has very important benefits for journalists, including abolishing the imprisonment of journalists and old media laws, in addition to providing the right to obtain information.
Al-Mahmoud said the new law takes Syrian media to a new level with unrestrained freedom of press, expressing hope that the executive instructions will keep up with the law and what Syria's future demands, stressing the need for limiting banned material to the minimum limit.
For his part, Addounia correspondent in Sweida Mufid Sarayeddin said that the new media law will enhance the role of press in public life, allowing the media to fulfill its duties with freedom and independence.
In a similar statement, Syrian News channel correspondent in Sweida Ramzi al-Attar said that the new law guarantees freedom of expression as long as it is exercised with responsibility, protecting journalists' rights to obtain information and respecting personal privacy and human dignity and rights as well as respecting intellectual property.
He added that the law classifies journalism as an intellectual profession in terms of rights and duties and motivates fair competition, in addition to settling disputes amicably.
In turn, Damascus Radio correspondent in Deir Ezzor Fuad al-Khalaf said that the new media law is an unprecedented achievement in the history of Syrian media, as it prevents any attempt at hindering the flow of information to journalists which will give media a supervisory role, effectively limiting corruption.
Al-Khalaf also noted that the new law gives Syrian media more credibility and professionalism.
Mazen Shahin, director of the Deir Ezzor office of al-Baath newspaper, said that abolishing the imprisonment of journalists is the most important feature of the new law, stressing that the new law creates a suitable environment for developing media discourse and makes journalists the cornerstone of building a modern Syria.
F. Allafi/ H. Said / H. Sabbagh