Syria – Whistleblowing Protection, Overview

1. Overview

The unrest that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 became especially violent in Syria. Corruption acts are mostly considered economic crimes and are punishable under the Economic Criminal Law 1996. In Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index1, Syria ranked 144 out of 176.

In Syria, there is no legislation that established the right to access to information.

2. Current legal situation

Article 38 of Syria’s constitution2 provides for freedom of speech and of the press, though these rights are severely restricted in practice.

Today, in Syria, there is no specific legislation aiming at the protection of whistleblowers.

a. Public sector

The law of the civil service, Civil Servants Basic Law no 50/2004 contains nothing in respect of the protection of whistleblowers. However there are many cases of civil servants who report cases of corruption to the media and then are fired from their jobs.

b. Private sector

N/A

c. Mechanism to report

The “Complaints and Petitions Commitee” is a mechanism that receives complaints from the Syrian citizens about different issues, though not specifically about corruption. The Committee depends on the Syrian Parliament.

3. Information landscape

Freedom of expression is heavily restricted. Apart from a few radio stations with non-news formats, all broadcast media are state owned.

The Penal Code and a 2001 Publications Law criminalize the publication of material that harms national unity. Many journalists, writers and intellectuals have been arrested under these laws.

The 2001 Press Law provides for broad state control over all print media and forbids reporting on topics that are deemed sensitive by the government, including content that could harm national security or national unity The Press Law also imposes punishment on reporters who do not reveal their sources in response to government requests

During 2011, journalists frequently went missing or were jailed, leading to a steep decline in what was already a highly repressive media environment.

Reporters Without Borders estimated that a high number of journalists remained in extended detention, including bloggers and online dissidents since Decemeber 2011.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), two journalists were killed in Syria in 20113.

In Syria there is no right to access to government information and basic government records.

Journalists that report on corruption are subject to severe harrasment and intimidation on the part of security services

4. Citizen participation

The Syrian government has refused to register any civil society groups working to fight graft and bans activist and experts from travelling to attend anti-corruption training workshops and conferences. These restrictions prevents civil society from doing any meaningful work to combat corruption.

5. Rule of law

Syrian Constitution explicitly endorsed the separation of powers, but the state of emergency overrode this principle and endowed the executive and various security services with a wide range of authority that has serious implications for judicial independence.

The reputation for corruption and the perception that access to justice is dependent on informal personal connections inspires little public confidence in judicial institutions.


1 http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/

2 Syrian Constitution – http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/sy00000_.html

3 The mutilated body of Ferzat Jarban, a cameraman, was found in November, a day after he was arrested while filming an antigovernment demonstration in the town of Al-Qasir. Jarban was the first journalist killed in Syria in connection with his work since CPJ started keeping detailed records in 1992. Basel al-Sayed, a freelance videographer who was documenting clashes in Homs, was killed in December. He was shot in the head by security forces, according to local activists and relatives