Ongoing political turmoil produced uneven conditions for press freedom in the Middle East in 2012, with Tunisia and Libya largely retaining their gains from 2011 even as Egypt slid backward into the Not Free category. The region as a whole experienced a net decline for the year, in keeping with a broader global pattern in which the percentage of people worldwide who enjoy a free media environment fell to its lowest point in more than a decade. Among the more disturbing developments in 2012 were dramatic declines for Mali, significant deterioration in Greece, and a further tightening of controls on press freedom in Latin America, punctuated by the decline of two countries, Ecuador and Paraguay, from Partly Free to Not Free status.
Freedom of Expression
Over the past few years, many of Freedom House’s publications, including Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, have pointed to worrisome declines in freedom of expression in countries around the world. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In practice, however, this fundamental human right is frequently restricted through tactics that include censorship, restrictive press legislation, and harassment of journalists, bloggers and others who voice their opinions, as well as crackdowns on religious minorities and other suppression of religious freedom. In response to the growing problem, Freedom House is engaging in a multi-faceted Freedom of Expression Campaign to defend this critical right.
Internationally, Freedom House focuses on resisting efforts at the United Nations to restrict existing norms protecting freedom of expression. These efforts include creating international legal mechanisms banning language deemed “defamatory of religions,” as well as organizing annual delegations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and to the UN Third Committee in New York to educate member states on key freedom of expression issues and to resist attempts to restrict freedom of expression. Freedom House also regularly gives oral interventions at the UNHCR, submits written reports and letters to the council, holds side panel sessions, and sends letters advocating for freedom of expression directly to state representatives.