Assad to Implement Media Reform as Syrian Protesters Vow to Continue Struggle

Assad promises to loosen restrictions on access to information; decree bans journalists from publishing 'any content that would prejudice the national unity and security'.

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Syrian President Bashar Assad issued on Sunday a decree to prohibit the imprisonment of journalists and to allow wider access to information.

"All media is independent and its freedom should not be restricted except in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and the law," said the decree, carried by the official SANA news agency.

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivering a speech in Damascus, Syria, on June 20, 2011.Credit: AP

The decree also ensured the right to access and make use of information.

However, the decree bans journalists from publishing "any content that would prejudice the national unity and security" or any material that would insult religious beliefs or incite sectarian problems. It also banned any material related to the armed forces.

An independent national media council will also be created.

It was the latest in a series of reforms promised by Assad to quell anti-government protests. Earlier this month, decrees on the formation of political parties and general elections were passed.

However, the move came to late impress Turkey, a regional power broker, whose President, Abduallah Gul, said Sunday that his country had lost faith in Syria and Assad.

"Actually (the situation in Syria) reached a level that everything is too little, too late. We lost our confidence," Gul told the Anatolia news agency in an interview.

The Turkish president was referring to unfulfilled promises by Syria's President Bashar Assad to stop the crackdown which has so far 2,200 according to the United Nations Human Rights organization.

"Today in the world there is no place for authoritarian admiistrations... Those either will be replaced by force, or the governors of states will take the initiative to administer," Gul said.

"Everyone should know that we are with the Syrian people ... What is fundamental is the people," he said.

Since mid-March pro-democracy protests have engulfed most of Syria calling for political and economic reforms as well as for Assad's ousting.

Government forces have ruthlessly cracked down on protests against almost five decades of Baath Party rule, killing over 2,200 people and triggering wide-scale international condemnation.

Authorities banned three human rights advocates Michel Kilo, Luai Hassan and Fayez Sarah from leaving Syria, activists based in Lebanon told DPA.

At least two people were killed and nine injured in the northern Idlib province on Sunday, when security forces stormed the town of Khan Shaykhun, not far from the border with Turkey, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists vowed to take to the streets later Sunday for more anti-government protests.

"We will come out today from all over Syria, from every street, from every town and every city. We will not be silent. Let's show the regime that we are stronger that they think," activists wrote on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.

Also on Sunday, security forces banned prayers in al-Rifai mosque in Damascus, Al-Arabiya broadcaster reported.

Protesters usually gather in mosques to perform prayers and go outside in groups to protests against Assad's regime.

The Head of the Revolutionary Council of the Syrian Coordination Committees, Mohammad Rahhal, said in remarks published Sunday that the council took the decision to arm the Syrian revolution.

"We made our decision to arm the revolution which will turn violent very soon because what we are being subjected to today is a global conspiracy that can only be faced by an armed uprising," he told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Circumstances no longer allow dealing peacefully with the regime's "crimes," he added.
"We will use whatever arms and rocks ... We will respond to the people's calls to arm the revolution," he said.

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