Assad finally issued a new law on cybercrimes in the country, after months of leaks from the articles that “reorganize the legal rules”, stipulated in Legislative Decree No. 17 of 2012, which is the law that the regime has been using over the years, as a “legal” way to silence criticism.
The amendments stipulate intensifying penalties for publishing through electronic means as well as criminalizing imprisonment and financial fines for anyone who publishes digital content on the network with the intent of overthrowing or changing the “system of government” in the state or undermining the prestige of the state and compromising national unity.
Article (27) of the new law specifically stipulates the punishment of temporary detention from 7 to 15 years and a fine of 10 to 15 million pounds, against anyone who establishes or manages a website or web page or publishes digital content on the network with the intent of provoking acts aimed at or calls for changing the constitution by illegal means.
Article (28) of the same law included that anyone who spreads false news on the network by means of information technology that undermines the prestige of the state or undermines national unity would be punished by temporary imprisonment from 3 to 5 years and a fine of 5 to 10 million pounds.
According to Article (29), whoever establishes or manages a website or web page or publishes digital content on the network with the intent of causing deterioration, instability or undermining confidence in the National banknotes or their exchange rates determined in official publications.
The articles of the new law published by pro-regime agency, SANA, included texts about internet service providers and their obligation to provide information to the authorities if requested. There would be tougher penalties for libel and slander crimes, especially if they were related to public employees practicing their work with articles on infringing on public modesty and morals.
Before 2018, there were no courts in the country specialized in cybercrime. Rather, those accused of undermining the prestige of the state, for example, were often referred to the courts dealing with terrorism.
However, the former Syrian Minister of Justice, Najm al-Ahmad, revealed at the time that the ministry was in the process of creating specialized courts to combat cybercrime because it was a “part of the declared war on Syria and was used to incite terrorism”, which showcases the regime’s clear definition of what information/electronic crime is.