Accountability systems

Due to the strong control the state has exerted on the media for decades, even once the media market was opened to private investors in 2001, media accountability institutions like press councils were simply not necessary and therefore do not exist in Syria. The only professional organisation, the Union of Journalists (see above), does not protect its affiliates but operates as a body of the government. Also, since all news outlets have to provide more or less the same version of the facts, ethical norms or a code to regulate individual or organisation decisions are superfluous. Although these same conditions still persist in the traditional media, new media outlets, emerging even before the beginning of the unrest, have contributed to raise awareness on media accountability practices. In fact, as Pies and Madanat have highlighted in their 2011 report, by giving the readers the possibility to comment online, news websites have introduced an “audience-oriented journalism approach” which takes the audience into account. Thus they have contributed to holding the media accountable for aspects the old media does not cover and the audience seems to have entered the field. This is even truer after the proliferation of new media outlets with the 2011 unrest and the evolution and the constant changes that have since affected the sector. In September 2015, over twenty independent Syrian media outlets agreed on ethical guidelines for their work and developed the Charter of Honour, an ethical charter for Syrian media to which the signatories chose to adhere. The charter includes not only print media but also online news outlets and radio stations and aims to guarantee “freedom of expression through professional and ethical journalism,” There are still some elements of disagreement, most importantly the complaints and enforcement mechanisms. The charter is open for any organisation to join and aims to become a recognised sign of quality/professionalism for the member organisations.