An archive of the war
When the uprising in Syria began, the number of newspapers and publications within the country rose from 3 to several hundred. In order to give the Syrian people an overview of what has happened during the last four years, the Syrian newspaper Enab Baladi is collecting all Syrian publications in a digital archive which, one day, they hope will become a physical reality.
Up until now, over 260 publications have been collected in the archive, which is available at www.syrianprints.org . Jawad Shorbaji, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Enab Baladi estimates the archive to hold around 5200 issues, totalling over 80,000 pages.
“I think we have managed to cover everything that has happened in Syria over the last four years since the revolution began,” he says.
Syrians have much they want to say
Mr. Shorbaji tells us that the Syrian media were strictly controlled by the regime before the uprising. There were only three newspapers, which were approved by the regime, and their content was rigidly censored.
“After the uprising, the number of publications exploded. People in Syria had been gagged and we had so much we wanted to say,” he says.
A team of 6 people has assumed responsibility for archiving the Syrian publications, which come from all aspects of the political spectrum in Syria. There are political journals, newspapers, religious periodicals, magazines for women and children and military publications.
“We agree with some of things we see published and disagree with others. But I think it’s very healthy for the Syrian community at large that people begin to discuss what they care about and describe themselves to the outside world” says Mr. Shorbaji
A dangerous job
The publications that have come out in Syria after the outbreak of war are largely financed by organisations and private individuals, and distributed free of charge. People struggling to survive the civil war have no money with which to pay; nor is there any kind of advertising market in Syria at present.
“Most of the newspapers were started by young people with little experience and with little financial support. Many of them have closed down under way,” says Mr. Shorbaji.
He also speaks of the extremely hazardous working conditions of the Syrian journalists who manage to keep going and to continue reporting from the war.
“Nobody trusts anybody else in Syria right now. People worry that journalists may be regime spies since they gather information. A significant number of journalists have been kidnapped by ISIL but the Assad regime has arrested even more. We have no idea of how many,” he says. “Most Syrian journalists work in secret and under pseudonyms so it’s very difficult to maintain an overview”.
Archiving in order not to forget
Jawad Shorbaji hopes that the digital archive of Syrian publications may one day become a physical archive, with copies of all the publications which were issued during the war.
“We’re working to find a place outside Syria where we can store everything. This should be a national archive but, as yet, there is nowhere in Syria that is safe enough,” he says.
Mr. Shorbaji believes that such an archive of Syrian publications is very important. Not only does it provide a picture of everything that has happened during the war, it also represents the views and thoughts of the Syrian people.
“When the war is over, the world will simply remember who won. But no-one remembers the people. That’s why it’s important to take care of what there is in terms of information about what happened during the war,” he says.