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RSF: Saudi, Egypt, Syria use covid to reinforce gagging of the media

Egyptian Journalists take part during a protest against the arrests of fellow journalists outside the Egyptian Journalist syndicate headquarters in the capital Cairo on 3 May 2016 on the occasion of World Press Freedom day. [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]
Egyptian Journalists take part during a protest against the arrests of fellow journalists outside the Egyptian Journalist syndicate headquarters in the capital Cairo on 3 May 2016 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

Reporters Without Borders has said that the MENA region is the "toughest and most dangerous for journalists" following the publication of its yearly report which ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom for journalists.

This year's report said that the global coronavirus pandemic has led to increased repression and attacks on reporters across the world.

Iran and Syria were among the most dangerous in the region, whilst the most authoritarian countries in the Middle East, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, "have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to reinforce their methods for gagging the media and to reaffirm their monopoly on news and information."

"In this region, still the toughest and most dangerous for journalists, the pandemic has exacerbated the problems that have long plagued the press, which was already in the death throes."

READ: 300% rise in executions in Egypt

Egypt has banned the publication of coronavirus statistics from the health ministry, as has Jordan.

Egypt, which is currently at number 166, has arrested several people for allegedly circulating figures which are larger than the official statistics.

Press freedom in Egypt "is becoming more and more alarming" with frequent raids and arrests, says RSF.

Egypt is now one of the world's biggest jailer of journalists, many of whom are kept for years on remand and tried in mass court hearings.

RSF said that it was hard to report from Lebanon on corruption whilst in Iraq three journalists were given six-year jail terms for "undermining national security."

Lebanon, now at 107, has slipped five places since the 2020 report.

In Algeria and Morocco the judicial system is being used to silence journalists, according to the report.

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AfricaCoronavirusEgyptMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaSyria
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