Following the trend of breaking away from state-controlled unions, opposition journalists in Syria take one step toward competing with the official press syndicate.
Earlier this year, Damascus saw the birth of the Syrian Writers Union, which included a number of opposition writers. Opposition journalists followed suit and founded the Syrian Journalists Union.
The union’s founding committee issued a statement that highlights the “tyranny of the Baath regime and its lack of respect for the profession of journalism.” It goes on to say that membership in the association “is open to all Syrian journalists.”
The statement also points out that the union was established as a result of “interaction with the Syrian people’s movement, in order to express solidarity with it and partake in the revolution against the tyrannical security regime.” The union also aspires to organize journalists “in a democratic and independent gathering.”
The new union criticized the “negative role of the official press syndicate (the official group for Syrian journalists) and its silence against the ban of satellite channels and unbiased media outlets from entering Syria, the oppression of journalists, and the extreme difficulty of carrying out their job under such circumstances.”
Among the most prominent names that were involved in drafting the founding statement were famous opposition figures Fayez Sarah, Amer Matar, Eiad Shurbaji, Bassam Jaara, Maisa Akbik, Ahmad Kamal, and Zeina Rahim.
The Syrian press scene was split over the newly-founded union. Some believed that this was merely a random and disorganized outburst, while others viewed it as an important step toward independence from the bureaucracy of governmental organizations, after the Syrian Press Syndicate turned a blind eye to all that was happening.
At this stage, many questions remain unanswered about the feasibility of such and undertaking, the possibility of organizing it, and its sources of financing in the current conditions. Moreover, there are some question marks regarding some of the charter members of the union, who are known to have been loyal to the regime.
In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Sarah states that “the establishment of the union is a very important issue, and all the appropriate steps will be discussed later. Until we are able to obtain good sources of funding, our funding will depend on the union members who believe in it.”
Sarah commented on concerns over some controversial names that were rushing to sign the founding statement by saying that “the union is a professional, not a political, medium. But the internal rules, on which the acceptance of any members will be based, will be formulated soon. Thus, concerns over a small group do not negate the importance of the rest, who are the majority, and their clean history is known.” He added that the union has created a Facebook page in order to stay in direct contact with all journalists and take cognizance of any violations they may experience.
Thus, the formation of unions and associations that are independent of the government continues. However, the question remains whether they will be able to produce more practical support for their members beyond releasing a founding statement.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.