DAMASCUS, Syria - Syria is cracking down more on Internet use, imposing tighter monitoring of citizens who link to the Internet, as well as jailing bloggers who criticize the government and blocking YouTube and other websites deemed harmful to state security.
The grip is tightening even as Syrian officials show off a center with fast Internet access and wireless technology for journalists covering this weekend's Arab League summit. The clampdown doesn't appear to be tied to the summit.
In recent days, authorities extended restrictions on use by requiring owners of Internet cafes to keep detailed logs on customers.
The rules, conveyed orally by security agents, require Internet cafes to record a client's full name, ID or passport number, the computer used, and the amount of time spent on the device. The logs must be available to security agents upon demand.
"It's a new form of psychological pressure and part of the state's systematic intimidation of Internet users," said Mazen Darwish, a journalist who heads the independent Syrian Media Center.
"It works to a certain extent in the sense that it creates a kind of self-censorship among users," he said.
Darwish has been targeted in a crackdown on journalists. He was arrested in January as he reported on unrest over a slaying in Adra, near Damascus, and he is on trial before a military court for allegedly defaming state institutions. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted, he said.
President Bashar Assad, who succeeded his late father, Hafez Assad, in 2000, relaxed his father's grip a bit by introducing the Internet and cellphones, but he has cracked down on dissent by jailing writers and democracy activists. Almost all print and broadcast media remain state-controlled.
According to the Syrian Media Center and other rights groups, authorities have blocked at least 153 websites . They include sites run by the Syrian opposition, newspapers critical of the regime, and networking and video-sharing sites.
Among them are Facebook, which was blocked in late December, YouTube, Skype, and Google's blogging engine. Users cannot access online versions of the Lebanese anti-Syria newspapers An-Nahar and Al-Mustaqbal and the Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat.
Lebanon's official website for Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who was slain, also is blocked. Lebanese political factions opposed to Syria's influence accuse Syria of being behind Hariri's assassination, an allegation Damascus denies.
The Syrian government does not comment on its Internet restrictions, but reports in Syrian media at the time Facebook was blocked said the ban was to prevent Israeli users from infiltrating Syrian social networks.