Freedom House: “Breakthroughs and Pushback in the Middle East”
On Tuesday, Freedom House released their annual freedom of the press report entitled “Press Freedom in 2011: Breakthroughs and Pushback in the Middle East.” Dramatic improvements in media freedoms occurred in the region—specifically in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt—as citizens overthrew their autocratic leaders, ending an era of tightly censored media information. Tunisia and Libya made record-breaking improvements in 2011, transitioning from among the world’s most oppressive countries to partly free.
Despite the dramatic improvements in the case of Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt the Middle East region remained the worst performing part of the world. According to the report, 71% of the population in the region lived in countries that were “not free”. Both Bahrain and Syria declined in freedoms as the countries attempt to contain protest movements demanding greater freedoms. In Bahrain, The Ministry of Culture and Information maintains control over private publications and issues fines if those publications carry information it finds objectionable. In Syria, media laws passed in august severely restricted the work of foreign media outlets and was made worse by the level of violence. Iran was rated to be among ‘worst of the worst’ countries with respect to media freedoms.
The Arab Uprising created a media backlash in authoritarian regimes around the world. Many countries censored news of the Arab uprisings in an attempt to suppress the airing of similar grievances in their own countries. New media and citizen journalism greatly have been “crucial” in combatting media black outs and other repression tactics of autocratic regimes. Kramer stated that autocratic regimes, now on the defensive, have created an “even more perilous situation for journalists.”