The current dynamic of the conflict in Syria suggests that in the mid and long term the government supported by Iran and Russia will continue gaining ground at the expenses of the Arab-armed opposition groups and Turkey will maintain its de facto protectorate in the north. The Kurds will likely be forced to reach an agreement with the Syrian government under Russian pressure regarding some areas from where the US forces have withdrawn (Raqqa and Kobane), whilst remaining in the east and southeast where IS residual forces are still active. It’s quite likely that in the Kurdish-held areas, the space of media outlets will shrink, because the local authorities will probably take on a more rigid and less libertarian attitude. In recent years, independent media entities were forced to move their premises and local staff abroad: in neighbouring Turkey (the Lebanese, the Iraqi and the Jordanian contexts do not offer a comfortable working environment for opposition-driven media) or in Europe and North America.
If in the past the rhetoric of the ‘external threat’ was hegemonic and polarised narratives in producing media contents, the current economic crisis and the looming economic implosion with the subsequent worsening of the living standards of ordinary citizens will monopolise the media discourse. Paradoxically, the widespread crisis equalises the conditions of the different areas of the country and could seem to bring the various 'Syrias' closer and therefore to overcome polarisation and fragmentation. In fact, it will probably lead to a progressive even bigger clusterization of narratives and practices, with all discourses limited to a narrow range of matters that directly affect each specific geographic micro-area. On the other hand, in the contested areas the relatively independent media activism atmosphere emerged in 2011 has had to come to terms with the scrutiny of HTS and Turkey that have proved restrictive (when not abusive) towards critical journalists and media outlets. However, the 2011 experience made many hope for a freer media landscape. The entire Syrian media system since the beginning of the uprising has been exposed to an unprecedented wave of requests for opening and updating. Nowadays and even under institutional control, local media in government-held areas are in any case compelled to behave in a more dynamic and competitive environment and have started to benefitted from a slight loosening of the censorship control. The general landscape is characterised by the mushrooming of local and foreign sources reverberated through a continuous social media flow of information, in which the borderline between facts and opinion often blurs. Local and grass-roots media work in all areas of the country (including government-held zones) to expand the space of freedom of expression, starting from tackling supposedly minor social and political issues.
In this context local, national and regional political entities would continue to exert enormous pressure on emerging independent Syrian media inside and outside the country and this trend will hinder development and professionalisation of the media field. Regional powers and well-connected local tycoons have continued pouring huge funds in the sector in order to empower their respective political-biased media entities. While independent media - based abroad and with scarce turnover activity in their managerial and editorial structures - have received less and less financial support by European and American donors. Syria is probably heading towards an even worse time than the first decade of the current war. In the media sector, it is crucial to support the local development of media outlets founded by groups remained inside the country, with the necessary knowledge and experience to move in what has become a minefield.