Freedom House: Relative Improvement in Press Freedom In the Middle East

Freedom House: Relative Improvement in Press Freedom In the Middle East

Freedom House report on Press freedom, released in advance of the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, indicated that setbacks in press freedom outnumbered advances 2 to 1 across the globe. However, there was a glimpse of hope concerning press freedom in the Middle East according to the report.

The global survey of Media Independence organized by Freedom House organization indicated that although there were clear setbacks in press freedom, there was some improvement in the Middle East and North Africa. The survey attributes the gains in the Middle East and North Africa to a growing number of journalists who were willing to challenge government restraints, a pushback trend seen in other regions as well.

“For every step forward in press freedom last year, there were two steps back,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “When press freedom is in retreat, it is an ominous sign that restrictions on other freedoms may soon follow. However, journalists in many countries of the world are pushing the boundaries, crossing the red-lines, demonstrating commitment and courage against great odds and we are seeing a greater global flow of information than ever before.”

Journalists were credited with pushing the boundaries set by authorities. In Egypt, for instance, their increased willingness to cross “red lines” was cited as boosting the country into the partly free category from the not-free group.

Egypt has registered an improvement in the press freedom on 2008 according to the report. It moved from those exceedingly bad performers with no press freedom, to join the ranks of  the countries enjoying partial freedom of press.

The report added talking about press in the Middle East and Africa, “More unrestricted access to new media such as satellite television and the internet boosted press freedom regionally.”.

Noteworthy, the survey assesses the degree of print, broadcast, and internet freedom all over the world. The 2008 ratings are based on an assessment of the legal, political and economic environments in which journalists worked in 2007. 

Freedom House report mentioned a number of crackdowns the journalists face all around the world such as punitive laws which increased “most notably in Africa”, according to the report.

It said, “Media freedom remains seriously constrained by the presence and use of numerous laws that are used to punish critical journalists and outlets.”

The report also mentioned serious phases where journalists face major obstacles, saying that since media played a key role covering coups and contested elections in countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Georgia, journalists became prime targets of government crackdowns, according to the report.

Worth mentioning that journalists in Egypt faced great governmental crackdown through numerous means. The Egyptian authorities use force to prevent media outlets from covering news, in addition to many cases which were raised against editors-in-chief in Egyptian opposition newspapers.