Syria cracks down on anti-government sites

Syria has stepped up its muzzling of the Internet, blocking access to a string of websites critical of the regime, including some run by leading dailies, a human rights group, quoted by an AFP report, said.

The AFP report said the sites blocked by firewalls within Syria include the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat (The Middle East) and the Beirut newspaper Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) run by the family of slain Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said.

Email provider Hotmail has also been blocked since July 17 last year, the watchdog added.

'Freedom of the Internet is regressing in Syria after the authorities blocked access to a string of independent websites,' the group, quoted by the AFP report, said.

In November 2005, media watchdog Reporters without Borders
named Syria as one of 15 enemies of the Internet around the world.