Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mideast nations tighten media controls

Media Watchdog Says Middle East Governments Have Tightened Control Over Media

"Autocratic governments in the Middle East combined periodic crackdowns with cosmetic media reforms last year to maintain their control over the press, an international media watchdog said Monday.

In its annual survey on world press freedom, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said reporters have been sentenced to prison for critical writing, despite promises of reform by Mideast regimes.

"Arab governments have had success in keeping independent journalists at heel by stunting media development or by chipping away at press gains through periodic crackdowns," said the report released in Cairo on Monday.

"Arab governments have also manipulated the media reform process. Regimes from Egypt to Yemen touted cosmetic amendments to media laws that have long been used to control journalism," it said.

Arab regimes have also relied on licensing to maintain control over a growing number of private media outlets that often engage in self-censorship for fear of persecution, said an official from the media watchdog.

"Licensing goes to those who are close to the governments," said Joel Campagna, the group's Middle East coordinator. "In those countries where the rules of law are weak, the private media cannot work independently.".....

In Egypt, the report highlighted a government crackdown against the press to suppress speculation about the health of 79-year-old President Hosni Mubarak. One prominent independent newspaper editor faces charges related to the crackdown.......

The group reported attacks against journalists by Israeli forces using tear gas and stun grenades.

"Over the course of the year, Israeli forces raided several Palestinian televisions and radio stations in the West Bank and confiscated equipment during military operations," the report said.......

"It is crystal clear that press freedom is in retreat everywhere in the Arab world," said Gamal Fahmi, of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, which hosted the release of the report Monday."

No comments: