Arab Uprising Impact’s on Press Freedom
In its 10th annual press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) assessed the evolution of press and media freedom after one year of turmoil in the Arab world. RWB noted “The transitions that have begun are not necessarily leading towards more pluralism and most of the changes in the rankings have been downward ones.”
Tunisia, which has launched the Arab Spring in December 2010, rose 30 places in the RWB index, from 164th to 134th ”because of the end of the harassment of journalists by the Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime, the emergence of real pluralism of opinion in the print media and, albeit possibly only for the time being, the end of massive and systematic Internet filtering.” However, the report held that the positive change are fragile. RWB criticized the recent appointment by the Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of people to run the state owned media and considered it as as a threat for media independence. RWB also campaigned against censorship on the internet.
Libya also rose in the index from 160th to 154th. RWB described an explosion in the number of media outlets and “pluralist enthusiasm.” However, the organization pointed out that “Libya’s ranking reflects the many abuses against journalists during the civil war.” Libya has a chance to see its rank to evolve if the democratic process and “media pluralism and independence take a lasting hold.”
The index revealed mostly a drop in the majority of Arab countries during the 2011 uprising “because of the measures taken in a bid to impose a news blackout” in crackdowns. Egypt plummeted from 127th to 166th. It is first the consequence “of the attempts by[former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak’s government and then the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to rein in the revolution’s successive phases.” Yemen fell one place, from 170th to 171st, as “the situation was already very worrying and Yemen had already fallen 16 places since 2008.” Like Yemen, Saudi Arabia lost only one place, from 157th to 158th, the country “is very low in the index because of the lack of pluralism and high level of self-censorship.” The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) fall from 87th to 112th, “because of its Internet filtering policy and the imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor, a blogger who administers the online pro-democracy forum Al-Hewar.” Morocco dropped from 135th to 138th . Meanwhile, Algeria rose from 133th to 122th mainly “because of a fall in the number of trials of journalists. ”
Bahrain and Syria are at the bottom of the index, they are respectively at the 173th and the 176th on an index assessing 179 states. The Kingdom of Bahrain plunged 29 places as the authorities implemented “an entire arsenal of measures” (and continue doing so) against media: Bahraini and foreign journalists were hounded, a deluge of pro-government propaganda has been released, are among a few of the continued violations. Syria already poorly ranked, continued its drop “because total censorship, widespread surveillance, indiscriminate violence and government manipulation made it impossible for journalists to work.”