Syria's only private daily paper hit by EU sanctions

AFP, Friday 2 Dec 2011

Tightened restrictions hit 'the only newspaper worth reading' which is expected to lose $1.7 million this year

Al-Watan, Syria's only privately-owned political daily, was added to a European Union sanctions blacklist on Friday for its alleged role in a state crackdown on dissent.

In an expanded blacklist of companies and individuals, the EU included Al-Watan and website Sham Press, also privately owned, but did not add state-run newspapers Tishrin, Al-Baath and Ath-Thawra.
Created in 2006 by three businessmen, Al-Watan is based in a Damascus free trade area, allowing it to skirt state censorship.
The paper has 120 employees, including 52 journalists, a worker at Al-Watan said. It is expected to lose US$1.7 million this year.
"Close to power in a country where the press is muzzled, Al-Watan was the only [newspaper] worth reading because it uses its own sources when other papers are so boring," a Western diplomat told AFP.
"Actually, the paper is put out by journalists whereas the others are edited by civil servants," he said.
Europe announced tightened economic sanctions on Syria on Thursday, including bans on exporting gas and oil industry equipment and trading Syrian government bonds in an effort to choke off funding.
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