Syrian authorities prohibited the Damascus Declaration Follow-up and Coordination Committee from holding a press conference on the first anniversary of the famous declaration composed by Syrian academics and politicians in opposition to the regime who call for radical democratic changes in the country. The ban took place using methods known too well in Syria: the Jamal al Atasi Forum for Democratic Dialogue was surrounded by police, entrances were blocked, and those in charge of the conference were told that the meeting was not allowed to take place. Perhaps the only virtue was that nobody was beaten, taken to prison, or killed, which has happened on many occasions in Syria. In addition to the ban, there was some damage caused to the car belonging to the head of the Forum, Suheir al Atasi.
Such behavior towards opposition groups of the Baath regime against its internal and foreign policies is familiar and the stifling of voices of opposition is a constant and old method used by the “objecting” state. However, the state does not forbid itself from distributing large amounts of fabricated and false news against personalities, politicians, and countries via official newspapers, platforms and websites to which writers who are infamous for their loyalty to the regime are asked to contribute.
Objection has become an overused term and an exaggerated public expression meaning resistance to Israel and the west. In order to avoid confusion that is intended by some, we must state that criticizing Syria is not the same as what the US or its allies want or the same as what the genius of George W Bush aims for which is aggravating the crises and fueling divisions in the region.
In a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists that looks at the ten countries with the highest levels of censorship, Libya and Syria both feature in the list whilst Iraq undoubtedly topped the list of most dangerous countries for journalists. This categorization does not exempt the miserable conditions of the press and the media in other Arab countries, rather it simply ranks these countries into various categories.
Between killing journalists in Iraq and arresting their counterparts and colleagues in Syria, there is a clear compatibility between terrorism and the Baathist style of “modernization”. Both sides despise people of opinion and knowledge and both detest criticism and consider it an evil that should be fought. The hostility of the “objectors” towards the press and culture is more an identity than a position, as when freedom is seen as a product of colonialism, objection is necessary in order to complete the qualities of nationalism to cover up any disputes and conceal any questions.
We can also equally criticize the United States, but the difference can be summed up by the well-known American journalist Bob Woodward who exposed a series of scandals in the US including the Watergate scandal and recently wrote a book about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq and accused the Bush administration of lying about the number of US casualties in Iraq. Woodward continues to write books from his home and his articles are still published in major newspapers and are able to shake the foundations of the Republic administration, whilst in “objecting” countries, the likes of Woodward are held in prisons.