Reporters Without Borders: World Press Freedom Index 2013
Reporters Without Borders released their 2013 World Press Freedom Index today, a ranking and overview of press freedom throughout the world. In the Middle East, the two countries with the worst rankings were Syria and Iran, while the two best were Lebanon and Kuwait. Out of 179 countries worldwide, Syria ranked 176, no change from last year’s rankings, and Iran 174, up one place from last year. The report stated, “Of all the ranked countries, [Syria] is the one that saw the most attacks on freedom of information,” and that in Syria, “Journalists are targeted by all the parties to the conflict.”
Continuing up from the bottom of the list, Yemen was ranked 169, and Bahrain, 165. The former rose two places from last year’s rankings and the latter rose eight. In Yemen, the report cites the absence of any legislative changes since new president Abd Rab Mansour Hadi took office, and stated that “journalists are still exposed to physical attacks, prosecution and even jail sentences.” In Bahrain, Reporters Without Borders saw “limited improvement,” pointing out that the crackdown in 2012 was less violent than in 2011.
Saudi Arabia was ranked 163, down five places from last year, and Egypt moved up eight places to 158. The report called out Morsi’s administration for “[appointing] new executives and editors to run the state newspapers” shortly after their election, a move which they say” had a major impact on their editorial policies.” In addition, Reporters Without Borders believes the Egyptian constitution “contains vaguely-worded provisions that clearly threaten freedoms.”
Scoring slightly better were Turkey, 154, Iraq, 150, Palestine, 146, and Oman, 141. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Oman had the most significant drop, sinking 24 places from their 2012 ranking of 117. The report noted that in 2012 Oman prosecuted around 50 bloggers on charges of cyber -crime or lèse-majesté.
Higher up in the rankings were the Middle Eastern countries of Tunisia, 138, Morocco, 136, Jordan, 134, and Libya, 131. Tunisia dropped four places partly due to “an increase in attacks on journalists in the first quarter of 2012.” Despite promises for reform in Jordan, “a repressive royal decree” that “drastically restricted freedom of information” caused the country to drop six places from their previous ranking of 128.
The Middle Eastern countries that ranked most free were Algeria, 125, U.A.E., 114, Israel, 112, Qatar, 110, Lebanon, 101, and Kuwait, 77. Except for Oman, Israel had the biggest drop from last year falling 20 spaces from their 2012 ranking of 92. This is due to “the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in the Palestinian Territories,” which last year had a special category. Reporters Without Borders also cited the IDF’s deliberate targeting of journalists and media buildings that were supporters of Hamas during the November 2012 “Pillar of Defense” and the military’s censorship of Israeli journalists. Kuwait, the highest ranked Middle Eastern country, increased by one ranking from last year’s report and Lebanon, the second highest Middle Eastern country decreased eight places from its 2012 ranking of 93. The report states that the media in Lebanon “became more polarized by neighboring Syria’s civil war” and that “its journalists are exposed to arbitrary detention and mistreatment.”
Overall, 2012 saw drastic changes in freedom of the press throughout the Middle East and the region’s countries span a range of 102 rankings. By comparison, the United States was ranked 32 out of 179 this year, up 15 spots from its previous ranking of 47. The country Reporters Without Borders believed was the most free in 2012 was Finland. They held the number one spot in last year’s report as well.