Menassat.com banned in Syria



 
Officially, Menassat.com is only a month old, and already we seem to have offended the Syrian government. The reason (we assume): publishing an article regarding Syria’s banning of the social networking site Facebook.
 
By Rita Barotta, Menassat.com Staff Writer
 
Syria, Damascus, public telecom cabin. ©S.M / arabimages.com
© S.M. / arabimages.com

On December 2nd 2007, we were officially banned in Syria. 
 
Syria’s Minister of Communication, Mr. Amro Salem (sources tell us that he is “an educated and affable guy”) has consistently denied any direct connection with the banning of websites in the past.

Since last July, however, the banning of websites has become a sort of "trend” in Syria.

So, Salem’s distancing himself from the actual “banning” act came as no surprise.
 
In fact, sources in Syria told Menassat.com that attempts to get in touch with Salem about the banning of our website, would likely get us transfered to the “Emperor of the Net”: Ali Ali, director of “Itisalat”.

(“Itisalat” is a telecommunications and technology company based in the UAE.)
 
Ali, however, deals with the technical aspects of banning these sites, and although talking to him may yield results in getting a site re-operational, nothing would not happen without key conditions being imposed: 1) you will have to become a government spy, revealing the identity of anonymous commentators, and 2) you will have to promise never to publish articles and essays from already banned sites.

Now, Menassat.com has begun to follow the same path as the administrators of other banned sites who have been attempting to re-launch their sites. 

Today, we tried to get in touch with Minister Salem, but he was in a meeting with the Board of Ministries.

We’ll try again tomorrow, and for as many days as it will take, to at least know the specific reasons for their ban of Menassat.com – the “why” if you will.
 
What we do know is that on July 25, 2007 the Minister of Communications distributed a public memo containing the government’s main reason behind the banning of websites. Allegedly, a site will be banned only if the data published has in someway offended people.

Would someone please tell us when it was that Menassat.com offended anyone? (And how we offended them?) Burning questions that we intend to have answered.
 
Initially, the impression we are getting is that the whole matter has nothing to do with offending or wrongdoing. Rather, it is an attempt by the Al Assad government to reverse the trend of a free internet environment that it had allowed to flourish these last few years.

What we have also learned from our sources in Syria is that additional reports will be issued and circulated via media organizations and non-governmental organizations regarding the government's “official” policy on the banning of websites in Syria.

In the initial stages of Menassat’s campaign to restore our website to Syria’s Internet world, we have also found out that some end users in Syria have been able to access our site via proxy addresses.

(Excuse us for not listing them: publishing them in the first place is what got us banned!)

Stay tuned! Menassat. Com will keep you informed.

Because we want voices to be heard, we will go on.

Because we believe in our mission and the enormous possibilities of technology as it relates to freedom of expression. we will go on - by any means necessary!