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Cablegate: Sarg Efforts to Restrict Media Coverage of Upcoming Iaea

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0445 1740531
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 220531Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5107
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION US IN NEW YORK
RUEHGVA/USMISSION GENEVA 0629
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0006

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000445

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/PPD, VCI, ISN
GENEVA PASS TO USUN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SY XF PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: SARG EFFORTS TO RESTRICT MEDIA COVERAGE OF UPCOMING IAEA
INSPECTION

1. SBU SUMMARY: Journalists seeking to cover the visit by the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team to Syria
June 22-24 have been given pause by media reports and rumors that
the Syrian government has banned reporters from entering the country
and may restrict the movements of journalists already in Damascus. A
Ministry of Information (MoI) official seemed to confirm placing
Syria off-limits to international reporters for the month, but cited
"bureacratic re-shuffling" as the cause. Meanwhile, local and
foreign journalists confirmed both denials at the border and
successful entries. Local journalists were awaiting instructions
from the MoI on the perameters for press coverage of the IAEA visit.
The press expect the Syrian News Agency (SANA) to be granted
exclusive coverage. END SUMMARY.

-------
Banned?
-------

2. [SBU] In advance of the visit to Syria by an inspection team
from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) June 22-24, the
Syrian government has denied entry to some foreign journalists and
reportedly restricted journalists in Damascus from travel outside
the city. The story first broke in the Egyptian media, which
reported that an Egyptian journalist from "Al-Ahram" was denied
entry to Syria and told "journalists could not enter from the
beginning to the end of June." A Syrian opposition website picked
up the story, and local and foreign journalists confirmed to EmbOffs
both denials at the border and successful entries.

------------------
The Official Story
------------------

3. [SBU] With a large number of key officials in the Syrian
government traveling with President Asad to India until June 21,
journalists were not able to get official confirmation. The
Director of Foreign Media at the Ministry of Information (MoI),
Abeer Al-Ahmad, told a PD FSN, "For technical reasons, because the
MoI is working on re-arranging its archive, there is no way that
facilities and services can be provided to journalists. And, it
will be a waste of time for them to come and sit around a hotel for
a week without the proper permits. Everything will return to normal
at the end of the month."

--------------
The Local View
--------------

4. [SBU] One local reporter for a Western media outlet told PolOff
she was sure reporters trying to travel to Syria were being denied
visas, but she was not sure how the press already in country would
be treated. A reporter for a pan-Arab paper told the IO that some
reporters were being denied, but others were permitted to enter
Syria. Two Syrian reporters, representing both foreign and Arab
media told a PD FSN they were awaiting instructions from the MOI
regarding any press coverage of the IAEA visit. They said there
would be a press conference at some point during the visit, but they
strongly believed no press would accompany the IAEA team or gain
access to the area while the team was in country. An official at the
state-run press reported to PD FSN that foreign press would not be
permitted to cover the story, and the Syrian News Agency (SANA)
would have exclusive coverage of the visit.

5. [SBU] COMMENT: While the Syrian government has a long history of
obstructing the work of foreign journalists, this particular round
appears to be connected directly to the IAEA visit and is of note
given the SARG's declared intention of being open and transparent
about the facility in al-Kibar.

CORBIN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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