Syria/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.7 Mass media

The Cultural Industries:

The private TV drama production in Syria is considered the sole cultural production that can be classified, theoretically speaking, within the framework of the “cultural industries” due to the profitable economic dimension of this sector and not because it has its own mechanisms and regulations that allow giving it the definition and/or characteristic of  the cultural industry. What draws attention is that TV drama production[1], in addition to Plastic art, are the sole cultural domain where the private sector plays a greater role than the public sector.


In 2010, the General Institution of Television and Radio Production was established by the provisions of law 16 of 2010 instead of the Television Production Directorate. This is a production institution of a private feature which is run on public sector money with the intention of protecting and supporting drama by setting a kind of positive rule, and developing laws that help work production. The institution is linked to the Minister of Information and enjoys a legal  presence and financial and administrative independence.


Director of TV Production Directorate at the General Establishment for Television and Broadcasting (The body in charge of drama production in the public sector with an annual budget of around 200 million SYP) has declared that the role of the Syndicate of Artists, the Committee of Cinema Industry, and the TV Production Directorate is restricted to “sponsoring the production” without intervention in marketing issues.


Currently, the General Establishment is working, through developing the Production Directorate, on building a production establishment of a private nature and with funds of the public sector to boost the production cycle in Syria.


TV production of the private companies in Syria is affiliated to the General Institution of Television and Radio Production. The latter works on  legalizing the work of the private sector and exercises its role through depending on a group of sub-committees for auditing budgets related to TV works and programs, design general strategies, and issue specific laws for regulating  production of the  private sector.


The legal and institutional goals of the tenth five-year plan in Syria aim to encourage provisions of cultural, cinema, and artistic investment in the framework of  Law No. 10 for the year 1991.


In relation to plastic arts, the Union of Plastic Artists replaced the Syndicate of Plastic Artists as per the Ministry of Culture’s decree No. 55 of 2004 as a legal framework for plastic artists’ work that also protects their rights. The law concerning the formation of the union was detailed in 72 articles, however this had not been activated at the date of this research. Legislative Decree No. 62 of 2013 concerning “copyright and related rights” stipulates the protection of plastic artists’ work in Item 7 of Article 2  and coversall applied and plastic art works, including calligraphy, painting, sculpture, engraving, etching, adornment, and printing on stone, fabric, wood or metal and the like.



Public Mass Media

The New Informational Law:

The Year 2011 noticed issuing the new informational law by the legislative decree No.108. The law included complete cancellation of the publications law, issued by the legislative decree No.50 for the year 2001, law of communicating with the public on the web, issued by the legislative decree No.26 for the year 2011, and the legislative decree No.10 for the year 2002 that’s related to private commercial broadcast stations. In addition, the law also cancelled all principles disobeying it in the law No.68 for the year 1951.


In order for this law to be issued, the Ministry of Information should modify its interior system to what’s equivalent with the new law. The law also requested issuing the decision No.654/M.W. by the government cabinet which included the executive directions for the informational law on 21/1/2012.



Structure and Privileges:

Law No.3 includes specifications for administrative parties assigned with the Law, which are: the Ministry of Information represented by the minister, the National Council of Information, and the executive bureau of the national council represented by its secretary general.


The National Council of Information “enjoys a respectable character and administrative and financial independence, as well as being connected with the government cabinet and responsible for organizing the informational sector according to the principles of this law.” It also practices the following privileges:

  • Working on protecting freedom of expression and information and expressing opinions on all the matters related with the drawing of informational policies.

  • Setting the fundamentals and restrictions guaranteed for organizing the informational sector according to the principles of this law and issuing the decisions and organizational lists that are necessary for this purpose.

  • Suggesting and providing opinions on the legislations related to the informational sector and contributing to putting them in execution.

  • Setting and executing technical standards and conditions books that are connected with granting permissions especially for informational methods, as well as, having committees specialized on this purpose.

  • Studying permissions requests for informational methods, according to the principles of this law, and or not accepting to issue or cancel them, as well as, creating committees specialized on this purpose.

  • Specifying alternatives and permissions costs for informational methods, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

  • Taking the necessary procedures for the guarantee of abiding the permission conditions that are specified in this law and the organizational decisions of the council by those given permissions to.

  • Encouraging and organizing fair competition in the informational sector and working on preventing acts that are disturbing to the competition.

  • Attempt to solve disputes that occur between informational methods peacefully.

  • Participating in representing Syria before States and international, regional, and Arab unions and organizations on all matters related to the informational sector.

  • Preparing and publishing an annual report on the situation of the informational sector and issuing artificial publications, articles, and news.

  • Supervising the execution of training policies, improving the level of artificial capability of those working in all informational methods, and giving license to and organizing the work of informational improving and training centers along with  the ones of research and analysis.

  • Monitor the informational performance of all informational institutions and methods and their obedience of the principles of this law.

  • Supervising the granting of documents that prove identity to informational workers, according to restrictions which the Council sets.

  • Setting the bases and mechanisms necessary for deciding on correspondents and international and Arab informational methods that desire to practice any form of information activity inside the Syrian Arab Republic. 

 

The Council should have an execution bureau.




Primary fundamentals:

The new informational law considers informational work one of the intellectual professions as for rights, assignments and a group of primary fundamentals of which comes first, “information by all of its methods is independent, performs its message freely and it’s not allowed to restrain its freedom unless according to the principles of the constitution and law.”


The law also concentrates on:

 

  • Freedom of expression and other primary freedoms guaranteed in the constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic, the International Declaration of Human Rights and the related international agreements endorsed by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

  • The citizen right of acquiring information related to the public affair.

  • National and nationalistic traits of the Syrian community and the responsibility of distributing knowledge along with expressing people advantages and protecting national identity.

  • Respecting the freedom of expression as to be practiced with consciousness and responsibility.

  • The informational workers right of acquiring and using information in respect of the principles mentioned in this law.

  • Abiding to honesty, trustworthiness, precision, fairness and objectivity in transferring information.

  • Respecting individuals’ privacy, dignity, and rights and keeping them away from violation by all means necessary. 

  • Respecting the journalistic honor charter issued by the Journalists Union.

  • The prohibition of individualizing any form of informational method.  

 



Restrictions:

The law restrained informational methods from publishing

 

  • Any content that may badly affect national unity and security, disrespecting religions and religious believes or igniting sectarianism.

  • Any content that may provoke homicides, acts of terrorism, aggression, hatred, or racism.

  • News and information related to the military and armed forces, except for what is issued by them and allowed to be published.

  • All of which that is restricted to be published in the General Punishments Law, legislations, and all of which that courts prohibit of publishing.

  • All of which that badly affect that State figures.

 




Licensing:

It was stated in the Law that each person has the right of issuing informational methods regardless of their kinds.




Publications:

Periodic and non-periodic publications undergo licensing according to the principles of this law. The Supreme Council of Information enjoys the privilege of granting permissions and must decide, regarding the request, within 30 days of its issuing date, as well as, informing the request owner within 10 days as the request would later be endorsed by the government cabinet.



Audio and visual communication methods:

This undergoes licensing, according to the principles of this law, any kind of establishing or igniting any of the audio and visual communication methods by any technology.


The council issues its decision regarding the approval or rejection of the request within a period of not more than six months since the submission date of the request, covering all its attachments, which is after coordinating with the organizing commission of telecommunication sector, established by Law No.18 for the year 2010.


Audio and visual communication methods that are permitted according to the content, are classified as the following:

  • Audio and visual communication methods of comprehensive content including news and political programs.

  • Audio and visual communication methods of specialized program content which they don’t cross the limits.


The above law is considered advanced compared with the legislative decree No.10 for the year 2002 which added an Article to the Law No.68 for the year 1951 which did not include private or commercial stations in the decision of acquiring the right of using air broadcasting frequencies (Radio) exclusive to the military and governmental parties.



Communication Methods on the Web:

The National Council of Information should issue a document of agreement to the communication method on the web within a period of fifteen days from the date of acquiring the request. Publishing restrictions should be imposed on whatever content is published in communication methods on the web, whether the communication methods are recognized or not and whether the content is edited by any of the workers in the communication method or by another person. Also, a communication method on the web should abide to preserving a copy of the content which is published in it regardless of its form and preserve the movable data which allows to verify the identities of people who are contributing to uploading the content on the web. 



News Agencies:

The permission request for news agencies is conditioned to be submitted by a considering person and which takes the type of a company with limited responsibility or an incorporated contributed one. The National Council of Information should issue a decision on the approval or disapproval of the permission request within a period not exceeding three months from the submission date of the request. The permission does not become effective unless endorsed by the government cabinet. The Council enforces news agencies to keep a copy of the news and informational content they present to their subscribers for a period of time assigned by the government cabinet. News agencies are considered responsible for any content issued by them.



Informational Service Companies:

The Council grants informational service companies a document of agreement within fifteen days from the date of acquiring the request, covering the conditions (set by the Council). The companies that are agreed on should submit the contracts signed with the foreign parties and the works included in those contracts before starting to execute them. The Council abides by replying to the proclamation by a decision within three days from the submission date, so if the period was finished without a reply, it would be considered a decision by the internal approval. 



E-informational Law Draft:

During 2012, the Ministry of Telecommunication distributed an E-informational law draft to head editors of E-newspapers inside Syria. This law considers communication on the web to be free, and its freedom is not restricted unless in the frame of law, in a way that respects the rights of individuals, societies and their properties, and the necessities of sovereignty and national security.


The Law recognizes property and creator rights, as it’s imposed to any web content, the laws that are related to the protection of the vicinity and creator rights and the protection of invention, industrial, commercial and intellectual property rights.


General Fundamentals:

 

  • Respecting the Country supreme interests and preserving national unity and public order and behaviors. 

  • Respecting the dignity of States and Nations, their sovereignty, people private lives and others rights.

  • Working with honesty, precision, trustworthiness, and objectivity in spreading data, information, news, and documents and adopting legal and fair methods of achieving them.

  • Adopting sources of well-known identity and maintaining their secrecy unless in cases where law states the opposite.

  • Respecting the national and nationalistic identity and arising Arabic towards a society of knowledge.

  • Reinforcing the availability of Arabic digital content and the services connected to it.

  • Respecting the vicinity and creator rights along with the invention, industrial, commercial, and intellectual property rights.

  • Ensure the right to respond and acquire the needed correction of the damaged ones.

 


The Ministry of Information is the administrative body that governs media activity in Syria[2].By cognizing the literary and legal documents of the Ministry, we see that culture and art have been given an utmost importance and a distinctive function, be it through defining tasks of the Ministry or through the activities exercised by the Ministry to carry out these tasks.


Moreover, by reviewing bylaws related to departments of the Ministry of Information, we see that special attention has been given to the cultural domain through the following bodies:

  • TV Directorate → Section of Cinema Affairs→ Dept. of Cinema Production

                                                                        → Dept. of Cinema Services

                                                                               → Dept. of Sound and Doubling

                                                         → Dept. of Animated Cartoons Production

  • TV Directorate → Channel 1  → Section of Cultural Programs  

                                          → Section of Cinema Programs

  • TV Directorate → Channel 1 → Section of the Cultural programs

  • Broadcasting Directorate → Section of the General Program → Dept. of the Cultural Programs

  • Broadcasting Directorate → Section of broadcasting Production- Dept. of series Section of Music

  • Broadcasting Directorate→ Section of Radio of Peoples Voice → Dept. of the Cultural Programs and the Organizations Program




Printed Matter:

The first press law was adopted in Syria in 1865. After Independence, a new press law No.35 for the year 1949 was adopted, which eliminated a lot of restrictions on the freedom of publishing and ownership of independent and Parties-affiliated newspapers. In the 50’s, publications in Syria reached an unprecedented number, amounting to 52 various publications until the date of the Syrian-Egyptian unity in 1958.


This approach was embodied in legal texts at the Ministry of Information. Article 3 stipulated that: t “he task of the Ministry of Information is to acquire the optimal usage of all media outlets to enlighten the public opinion, firmly consolidating the Arab national principles, and strengthening relations with the Arab and friendly countries alike in accordance with  principles of the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party and the policy of the government. The two basic pillars in this respect are: the Emergency law and the 8th article of the Constitution. The monopoly of the State of all media outlets continued until 2001 when a new press law was issued under the legislative decree no. 50 which entitled, for the first time in four decades, the right to establish private media outlets.



Radio Stations:

After almost a year of the issuance of permission to publications of the private domain in line with the new press law issued in 2001, the Legislative Decreed No. 10 was issued on 4 February 2002. It introduced a new article to Law No. 68 for the year 1951 where private and commercial broadcasting stations were excluded from provisions that restricts the right of broadcasting to the State and the military bodies in accordance with article 1of Law No.68, 1951. Accordingly, article 2 of the Law No.68 stipulated that:

  • Commercial and private radio stations that transmit music programs, songs, and commercials are excluded from the provisions of this resolution on condition that they abide by the provisions of article 8 of Law No. 68. Licenses for these broadcasting stations are granted by a resolution issued by the Prime Minister based on a proposal of the Minister of Information.

  • Basicterms and provisions of granting licenses to commercial private radio stations are prescribed in an organizational decision issued by the Prime Minister based on a proposal of the Minister of Information. The decision prescribes also provisions and conditions under which these stations would exercise their job.




Journalists Union: (Journalists Union Law No.1, on 14.01.1990):

At the time the Journalists Union was established, there was no private press in Syria, so the Legislative Decree No 58 for the year 1974 that restricts the right of membership in the Journalists Union to workers in only few Government Establishments remained valid. The Legislative Law issued for establishment of the Union in 1990 did not stipulate to cancel this Decree.


The General Establishment For Printing: (Legislative Decree No.15, 2008):

Article 2 stipulates that:”A general establishment of an economic feature, called the General Establishment for Printing, a body corporate, financially and administratively independent, affiliated by the Minister of Education, and based in Damascus is to be established".


Article 3 stipulates that:”the Establishment aims to:

Print the schoolbooks and distribute them amongst Establishment branches at the Governorates, beside to printing all publications of the Ministries of Education and Information”. Thus, all state-run newspapers are printed at this Establishment solely, with affiliation to Ministry of Education for sake of printing which indeed has nothing to do with newspapers printing domain.


The law has exempted the Establishment from paying taxes, and granted it big financial privileges. As stated in article 9: “Technical equipment, printing machines, and other printing accessories imported by the Establishment are exempted from taxes and from paying fees, custom dues, municipality fees, statistic fees, and other fees.” Thus, this means that the Establishment will enjoy a preferential privilege compared to other printing houses, enabling it to be more capable on competition and, in return, more capable on controlling the market of prints in general.


The General Establishment For Prints Distribution (The Legislative Law No. 42 for the Year 1975):

On 1/9/2014 the Ministry of Information signed a protocol of cooperation with the Islamic Broadcasting Union in Iran with the aim to establish a relationship of media collaboration and to establish the first base for a Resistance Media Union.[3]





[1] Amongst  the most important cinema and TV production companies, among of which some have completely stopped and some other are still producing, are: FaizSalka films-Damascus, TahseenQawadri Company for Cinema- Damascus, Mohamad Farouk Films- Damascus, Zanobia Films-Damascus, Al-Zozo For Cinema-Damascus, Tarke Films-Damascus,SameerAnini Films-Damascus, ZiadMawlawi Films-Damascus, Al-Ghanem for Cinema-Damascus, Syria Films-Damascus Fitna&Ighra' Films-Damascus, Al-Haramoun for Cinema production-Damascus, Hilious Films-Damascus, Arfan&Jalek for Cinema production-Aleppo, Bahjat Al-Masri Films-Damascus, Ahmad Abu Sada Films-Damascus, Al-Naem for Cinema Production, Al-Fursan for Cinema Production-Damascus, Khaled Al-Ghazi Films-Damascus, Sham Films-Damascus, SemirAmis Films-Damascus, Kablawi&Zalata Films-Aleppo, Mohammed Al-Sardar Films- Aleppo, Taira&Akta Films- Aleppo, Masters for Production-Damascus, Al-Dawlia for Production-Damascus, NadereAttasi Films- Damascus, Ala'a Al-Deen for Production-Damascus, Jump for Production-Damascus, Al-Sham International for Production-Damascus, and Mlakani for Production-Damascus.

[2] Article 9: Ministry of Information comprises of the following bodies: The Central Administration- Affiliated Directorates and Departments at Governorates and following establishments: the General Establishment of Radio and TV, Syrian Arab News Agency SANA, Al-Wihda Establishment for press, printing and publishing, Tishreen Establishment for press and publishing, the Arab Syrian Establishment for the Distribution of prints, the Arab Establishment of Advertisement, Institute of Media Studies, institute of Printing and Publishing.

The goals of the Ministry: Spreading culture among the public, reviving the Arab heritage in all literary, scientific, and artistic domains, introducing the public with the accomplishments of the human civilization in all fields, upgrading level of arts of various kinds, encouraging  talents in the intellectual and innovation fields, providing media and cultural services by encouraging the scientific, literary, intellectual, and artistic production as well as encouraging production in the mentioned fields.


Chapter published: 06-05-2016


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