View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Freedom of the Press: Commendation for the UAE and Gulf Nations

In the recently released Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007, the UAE and Gulf Nations came in for special praise.

The overall commentary stated, “There has been progress by some Gulf countries.”

In the world rankings, Kuwait had moved 11 places from 74th in 2006 to 63rd in 2007. The United Arab Emirates had moved a significant 14 places from 79th in 2006 to 65th, and Qatar had moved 2 places from 81st in 2006 to 79th.

Of press freedom in the Gulf region the report said:

“The authorities have displayed a tendency to be more open-minded and, in some cases, initiatives have been taken with a view to liberalising press laws. But self-censorship continues to be widespread in the press in these countries.”

“For the first time, Saudi Arabia (148th) has climbed out of the bottom 20. Saudi journalists enjoyed something of a respite in the past year. But the controlled exercised by the information ministry’s media surveillance committee prevents the Wahhabi-led kingdom from rising higher in the ranking.”

Probably for the first time the Worldwide Press Freedom Index had much to say about blog writers (bloggers) globally:

“The Internet is occupying more and more space in the breakdown of press freedom violations. Several countries fell in the ranking this year because of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information.”

“In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible.”

“We are concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship,” Reporters Without Borders said. “More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.”

“At least 64 persons are currently imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet. China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison. Eight are being held in Vietnam. A young man known as Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in Egypt for blog posts criticising the president and Islamist control of the country’s universities.”

Geoff Pound

Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006 Figures

Image: Mapping World Press Freedom