Freedom of information in Syria

19.02.2015 – Cyber attacks on two independent news sites

Two Syrian news websites were the victims of cyber-attacks last week that rendered them inaccessible for several hours. The targets, the site ofthe Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on 11 February, and the online newspaper Orient News on 12 February.

The hackers posted a black screen on the home page accusing its staff of being British intelligence agents. Those who hacked into the Orient News site identified themselves as Islamic State militants and left a message threatening its journalists.

As well as keeping the state media under close control, the Syrian government uses a cyber-army that floods social networks with messages in support of President Bashar Al-Assad. Operated by government militias and intelligence services (mukhabarat), this cyber-army also monitors and harasses online journalists.

Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.