Foreign Policy Blogs

Friending the President

As I return to Syria after a few weeks away I have been suddenly reminded of the many challenges to Internet access here. The slow-as-molasses connections speeds, the months long process to set up home accounts, and of course the censor’s prohibition of using certain sites. As I sit in my local internet cafe I long for the fast connection speeds and pajama and breakfast comforts of the US.

You'd be asleep too if you had a connection this slow

You'd be asleep too if you had a connection this slow

On this issue NPR has just aired a VERY well done story on the current state of media freedoms here. The piece covers a range of issues, from more traditional media outlets such as radio and magazines, to the advent of newer technologies such as facebook, twitter, and (ghast!) even blogging. I suggest everyone take a look.

Aside from my personal interest in discovering that I blog in one of the 10 worst places to blog (career suggestions anyone?) this piece is interesting for several reasons. The discussion of how interested and active Syrian youth have been online is the thing we should be focussing on here. The consequences of this participation is going to have a lasting impact, both here and regionally. While the Syrian government is trying to limit the amount of “questionable” content gets into the country via the internet, it is very easy to circumvent this limits. One has to question the sincerity of such efforts when both the President and First Lady have facebook pages.

This piece also directly ties into the recent US State department trade mission to bring US technology firms to Syria this past June, as the current leadership at State sees new media technologies, such as blogging, facebook, and twitter as important tools in their regional efforts. Many criticized the move at the time, especially because of some kinda weird tweets, but this NPR piece highlights the transformative potential of these new media sources.

Hopefully, the influence of such media can pull Syria a little higher up the “best places to blog” list. That would be nice.



Walter Raubeson

Walter spent the last two years living and working in Damascus, reporting on the Syrian social, political, and cultural scene. Recently returned to the US, Walter continues to monitor Middle Eastern events with verve, and also gusto.

Having graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science- International Relations-in September 2008, Walter's MA thesis analyzed the Lebanese political system; focusing on the impact of foreign intervention within Lebanon, particularly the roles of Iran, Israel, Syria, and the US.