On BBC Arabic TV: Facebook decision “meaningless”
BBC Arabic TV called me this evening to comment on Bashar’s magnanimous decision to unblock social networking sites in Syria.
I couldn’t say no, especially knowing that regime sympathizers in Europe and the US will jump at this opportunity to market this headline-grabbing decision as “reform”.
It was actually my first time in front of live television and I was slightly nervous. Ironic given that I work in a TV channel.
For those whose Arabic is still developing, what I said was that the move to lift restrictions on Facebook, YouTube, et al was long overdue. It was, if anything, a white flag by the regime which has palpably failed in its battle against young Syrians to censor and control the Internet.
Asked by the presenter why Syrians had not responded to the 5th Feb “day of rage”, I said that it was a matter of fear, plain and simple. Repression is very harsh in Syria and the memory of the horrific Hama massacre (29th anniversary this month) is proof that the regime is prepared to kill thousands of its own citizens to remain in power.
I then made the point (the same point I made to the Guardian’s Ian Black who quoted me on it) that allowing people to access social networking sites without the use of proxy servers will only make it easier for the censors to know who is doing what. I therefore urged users of the Internet in Syria to continue using proxy servers in order to surf the net safely.
Finally, I stressed that unblocking a few websites while maintaining the apparatus of internet censorship, is totally meaningless.
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