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Report: Middle East is world's biggest prison for journalists

Middle Eastern governments are some of the world's worst offenders when it comes to the repression of freedom of speech, the annual Freedom Index issued by Reporters without Borders (RSF) has revealed.

"Despite the democratic transition that allowed Tunisia to emerge fairly well from the Arab Spring, Tunisian journalists continue to be subjected to harassment of many kinds," the report said after it ranked the country at number 96 of the 180 states listed.

It explained: "Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment has ended but defamation charges are often brought against journalists who cause trouble, although the charges are rarely followed by trials."

Middle East's worst offenders:

  1. Syria
  2. Sudan
  3. Yemen
  4. Iran
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Libya
  7. Bahrain
  8. Egypt
  9. Iraq
  10. Turkey

The report referred to censorship in the country. "Self-censorship continues to be widespread in the now free Tunisian media but a few online media outlets are trying to change this," it said. "They include the web magazine Inkyfada, which provides investigative coverage of very sensitive subjects."

'World's biggest prison'

"The Egyptian media environment is dynamic and the media reflect the country's polarisation between support for [Egyptian President Abdel Fatah] Al-Sisi and opposition," the report said.

"The authoritarian regime has used the fraught security situation to crack down on critical journalists in the name of stability and national security."

"Now ranked 159th out of 180 countries, Egypt had fallen steadily in the Index since the end of the Mubarak era, when it was ranked 127th out of 173 countries. Under President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt was ranked 158th of 178 countries in 2012 and 2013."

RSF said that more than 20 journalists are currently detained on "trumped-up charges," making Egypt "one of the world's biggest prisons for media personnel." It noted Al-Sisi's remarks that journalists in Egypt enjoyed "unprecedented" freedom of expression.

"Journalists who criticise Al-Sisi or his government are liable to be harassed, fired or even jailed," adding that "the media are now obliged to limit themselves to the government's version of terrorist attacks. Reporters who fail to comply can be fined the equivalent of more than a year's salary."


AfricaBahrainEgyptIranIraqMiddle EastNewsRegionSaudi ArabiaSudanTurkeyYemen
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