Over the last four years Syrian authorities have authorised several newspapers and journals but censored many others.
Most of the newspapers were forced to shut down due to a lack of funding which impaired their ability to deliver on a regular basis.
Despite the ongoing revolution, many newspapers have found a way to stay in print. With media being heavily controlled by the government, many Syrian youth proceeded to set up anti-regime newspapers and periodicals without a license.
These newspapers work underground, with content being edited in towns, printed at night and distributed at dawn. Undeterred by a scarcity of funds and challenges related to printing and distribution, the youth are determined to issue these newspapers regularly as a form of popular resistance to the regime.
The names of these newspapers reflect the aspirations of the Syrian popular uprising, like Syria wants freedom, Grapes of my country and our Syria.
‘Syria wants freedom’
The planning for the launch of Syria wants freedom, an anti-regime newspaper, started mid-October last year. Their first issue came out on October 30 with the help and participation of leading political activists like Suheir Atasi and Mulhim Drubi together with a group of young journalists.
"The editorial line of the newspaper has improved a great deal, and after several issues it began to attract a wide range of writers, editors and young professionals, becoming more diverse and specialized," the editor-in-chief of Nazir paper, Jandali Rifae, told DCMF.
Rifae underlines the newspaper's approach to the Syrian crisis, based on holistic reporting that covers all aspects and dimensions of the revolution. It collects data and reports on street protests inside the country. It also covers the activities of the Syrian opposition and runs political and economic articles and commentaries written by young Syrians.
‘Grapes of my country’
Like many other newspapers, Grapes of my country was launched during the revolution under difficult circumstances. The story started in 2011 when one of its current editors, Mohamed Darani, set up a team that included leading figures of Daria youth in Damascus rural area. The team members were university graduates with no journalistic experience.
"We were able to stay in print despite these challenges and kept publishing to defy the regime. Security forces besieged us, limiting our freedom of movement and ability to be in touch with one another to exchange views and discuss the content of the newspapers. This is why in order to communicate we resorted to online chat software programmes and text messaging, further complicating our work and making it less efficient,” said Daria.
They used social media to form groups and hold planning meetings to develop the editorial line of the newspaper. The first issue came out in January 2012. The newspaper printed 100 coloured copies and has been in publication since then. At first, the plan was to reach protesters in the city of Daria but as more issues came out people wanted us to increase our audience nationally. We then began covering events nationwide and attracted prominent analysts and columnists from the opposition party and media.
The newspaper's staff had to deal with a host of security challenges, including police pursuit and receiving threats of arrest, torture and killing.
“Other challenges have to do with long distances between where we print the paper and where we distribute it as well as transporting copies from one place to another and having to deal with security checkpoints which are almost everywhere. Sometimes the distribution errand turns into a risky adventure as we have to hurl newspaper copies discretely over walls and into balconies or insert them underneath shops' facades and doors," added Darani.
The idea behind setting up this newspaper was very simple. It started in a secret meeting held in a small house in a Damascus neighbourhood. With some papers, a laptop and a small printer, colleagues launched Our Syria as a platform for free expression.
Founder of the newspaper, Khaled Kanfati, talks about their first meeting "We chose to hold the meeting in a small house to escape the security forces' tight grip and the regime's brutality. It's strangely paradoxical that a meeting like this one which should be brought to the open because it has to do with spreading the truth ended up being conducted discretely."
"The newspaper has grown day by day. It has developed to cover not only the revolution but also all issues in Syria, past and present. It is a first step in the long arduous path towards a free and new Syria," added Kanfati.
This article was translated from Arabic.