Middle East & North Africa
The 2010/11 Media Sustainability Index (MSI) for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the fifth such study undertaken by IREX, and tracks the developments in the media across the region during the events of the Arab Spring. While the freedom of speech rights have expanded in many countries since 2009, the reactionary actions of the authorities in some countries, along with a drop in security, have meant new challenges and dangers for journalists. The panels also noted that the journalism field has been flooded with new entrants, including youth activists, citizen journalists, bloggers, and average citizens equipped with smart phones and internet access. These new voices have broadened coverage of events, regions, and topics. However, the lack of experience and training is apparent in this cohort of new journalists, limiting the positive impact of their contributions as they raise new questions of journalistic integrity and ethics in a sector long led by professionals in the service of the state, not of the public.
The Middle East and North Africa region continued to have the world’s poorest ratings in 2012, with no countries ranked in the Free category, 5 (26 percent) designated Partly Free, and 14 (74 percent) assessed as Not Free. Similarly, in terms of the breakdown by population, none of the region’s people lived in Free media environments, 8 percent lived in Partly Free countries, and the vast majority, 92 percent, lived in countries or territories that were designated Not Free. Although new information platforms—including blogs, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and smartphones—
have had a positive impact, traditional media in much of the region were still constrained by emergency rule, state ownership and editorial directives, harsh blasphemy legislation, and laws against insulting monarchs and public figures. Moreover, ruling authorities have stepped up efforts to control new media using similar measures as well as censorship and surveillance. Following significant positive movement in the regional average score in 2011, particularly in the legal and political categories, there was some backsliding in 2012, with improvements in the legal and economic categories outweighed by
declines in the political category.
Reporters Without Borders
The Arab uprisings and the measures taken by governments to control news and information in response to the uprisings had a major impact on the ranking of countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. From Morocco to Bahrain and Yemen, few countries were spared by this wave of pro-democracy uprisings, which prompted major crackdowns.
Some predators of press freedom fell from power, but others remain in place. The transitions that have begun are not necessarily leading towards more pluralism and most of the changes in the rankings have been downward ones. The freedoms that have been won are fragile and could easily be swept away.
Afghanistan | Algeria | Bahrain | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority | Jordan | Kuwait | Lebanon | Libya | Morocco | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Tunisia | Turkey | United Arab Emirates | Yemen