Reader Peter S. drew my attention to this Newsweek interview with Ali Farzat, whose cartoons were banned by the Syrian regime but eventually picked up by the BBC in the form of an animated series.
Hassan Abdallah: Bashar al-Assad used to come visit you at home before he became president, and he’s responsible for [at first] legalizing the publishing of your drawings. Why this change of heart?
Ali Farzat: Before he became president, he used to attend my exhibits and a friendship developed as a result. But there are those who thought that Al-Doumari had crossed the line in exposing corruption and putting into doubt the reputation of some institutions and individuals. We used to cover important issues dealing with reform and the things holding it back, and we sent an open letter to the president asking him to institute needed reforms.
They viewed that as a threat to their control. They wanted me to follow the official line, they offered all sorts of incentives, and then they threatened. Finally, they shut down the paper. People in Syria remember that Al-Doumari preferred telling the truth, even if that led to its demise, over lying to the people and staying alive. There are Baathists who consider Syria their property and they behave as if they are first-class citizens, better than the rest. Syria has become the property of a group of monopolists.
You can read the whole interview here. I really do not know why authoritarian regimes spend all of this time and effort trying to stifle freedom of expression when nothing can be censored anymore in this globalized era. The public is no longer naïve. They can see it all.