Syria has long offered its citizens political news from a choice of three government-run daily newspapers: The Revolution, The October, and The Baath.
Five years ago, however, the government began to permit independent media – up to a point – and last week, the independent daily newspaper al-Watan – the Homeland – was launched to some fanfare. It is routinely sold out at newspaper stands.
The 16-page broadsheet offers Syrian news written by journalists not employed by the official Syrian news agency. It also includes news from Israel, something not offered by the government dailies.
Al-Watan’s independent status is central in its marketing: on billboards and bus stops around the city, the newspaper is introduced as, “The first independent political daily newspaper in four decades.”
Still, the newspaper is subject to government censorship and it hasn’t taken on controversial issues that Syria’s opposition figures champion: political and human rights reforms. There are limits to Syria’s press freedoms: a popular, independent satirical newspaper launched recently was promptly shut down.