BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria bans domestic opposition: activists

Syrian residents and rescue workers search the rubble for survivors following a reported barrel-bomb attack by Syrian government forces in the Bab al-Neirab neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo August 11, 2014. (AFP Photo/Zein al-Rifai)

BEIRUT: Syria's government Monday banned the so-called tolerated domestic opposition from holding a news conference, activists said, denouncing the ban as an unprecedented move.

Two opposition groups allowed to operate inside the country by the government, as opposed to those mostly based in exile and seeking President Bashar Assad's ouster, were due to hold the joint news conference in Damascus Monday.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change and the Front for Change and Liberation planned to unveil a joint document calling for a "political solution" to the conflict that has ravaged Syria for more than three years, and for the end of the "autocratic regime."

But the two groups said security forces barred them from announcing the initiative.

"Security service members prevented the holding of the conference and prevented journalists from entering the FCL headquarters," said Hassan Abdel-Azim, a NCCDC member.

"A checkpoint of eight men in military uniform was set up outside the headquarters," where the news conference was to be held, added Safwan Akkash, another NCCDC member.

"Journalists were prevented from entering on the pretext that they didn't have authorization to cover the event, even though they are all accredited by the information ministry," Akkash added.

The move is the first time that the domestic opposition has been prevented from holding a news conference since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.

Akkash said the move was a response to the content of the document the groups planned to present.

"The regime did not appreciate the fact that with this memorandum, the FCL has become an opposition movement outside the orbit of the regime," he said.

The text signed by the two groups opposes all foreign interference in Syria as well as a "military solution" to the conflict.

But it also calls for the "passage from an autocratic regime to a democratic, pluralistic system."

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the Syrian information ministry, acting on orders from the presidential palace, issued a directive prohibiting coverage of the domestic opposition.

The Britain-based monitoring group said the order prohibited "journalists from covering any opposition news conference in Damascus or interviewing any opposition member."

Syria's government has long muzzled the opposition, and offered only limited space to the "tolerated" opposition in recent years.

It cracked down hard on the anti-government protests that erupted in March 2011, sparking a violent conflict that has killed more than 170,000 people, according to the Observatory.

 

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Summary

Syria's government Monday banned the so-called tolerated domestic opposition from holding a news conference, activists said, denouncing the ban as an unprecedented move.

Two opposition groups allowed to operate inside the country by the government, as opposed to those mostly based in exile and seeking President Bashar Assad's ouster, were due to hold the joint news conference in Damascus Monday.

The move is the first time that the domestic opposition has been prevented from holding a news conference since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011 .

Syria's government has long muzzled the opposition, and offered only limited space to the "tolerated" opposition in recent years.


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