Freedom House Joins Middle East Journalists’ Call for Greater Press Freedom
Freedom House supports recent demands by local journalists and freedom of expression advocates in the Middle East and North African region for reform of state media organizations as well as the repeal of restrictive media laws and condemns increased crackdowns on journalists during the current political turmoil.
In response to political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, several governments in the region are attempting to clamp down on media freedom in hopes of quelling demands for more political rights. Authorities in Yemen, Libya and Iraq have targeted journalists and violently repressed reporting on protests. On March 4, several journalists in Iraq were brutally attacked by anti-riot police with electroshock batons while covering a local demonstration demanding more efficient government services in Basra. Three journalists were taken to the hospital with head injuries as a result of these attacks.
“The targeting by authorities of journalists and media workers covering the unprecedented political unrest is deeply concerning,” said Courtney C. Radsch, Freedom House’s freedom of expression officer. “Of particular concern is the impact these attempts to contain reporting have on limiting the dissemination of vital and accurate information when countries are experiencing turmoil on the streets.”
In Jordan and Oman, journalists have held large demonstrations to demand greater media freedom, with more than 150 people gathering outside of Oman’s state TV yesterday.
“Demands by citizens and journalists across the Middle East for greater freedom of expression are a clear signal to these governments that they must revoke antiquated laws that limit free speech and ensure the independence of all media, especially state-funded broadcast outlets,” said Karin Karlekar, managing editor of Freedom House's Freedom of the Press index. “It’s time for states to get out of the media business.”
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
To learn more about Freedom House analysis of the Middle East, click here.