MENA region ‘toughest and most dangerous for journalists’: RSF
The press freedom organisation, also known by the French acronym RSF, made this claim on Tuesday in its annual World Press Freedom Index for 2021.
The index and its accompanying report described the Middle East’s media landscape as “moribund,” adding that it has 12 “red” or “black” states.
Th colour designations signifiy that circumstances there are “bad” or “very bad.”
Djibouti, Iran and Syria picked up the tail at 176th, 174th and 173rd out of 180, respectively.
Read more: 'Political systems are broken': A year of Covid-19 and repression in the Middle East
The index slammed countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, who it said “already exercised almost total control over their media.”
RSF found they had “reaffirmed their monopoly of news and information” since the rise of coronavirus.
The Paris-based NGO said Egypt forbade reporting of Covid-related statistics that came from outside the health ministry.
It also criticised Cairo for forcing The Guardian’s Ruth Michaelson out of the country last March for citing research arguing that official figures were underestimating the true prevalence of coronavirus.
Lebanon also came under fire, in particular for the danger reporting on controversial topics, for instance, corruption brings.
RSF referenced the murder of Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim, who was found shot to death in his car this February.
The index did, however, say the rise of independent media was “a small ray of hope.”
Traffic to one pan-Arab site, RSF said, rose by almost half.
Coronavirus-related suppression was again a theme in Jordan, where RSF says two Roya TV journalists were detained for a short time in April 2020.
They had covered people’s frustrations with the lack of work due to coronavirus lockdown measures.
In Iraq, six-year jail terms were handed down to three reporters for “undermining national security,” with one said to have engaged in espionage for Iran.
RSF is not the first NGO to criticise Middle Eastern governments over their behaviour amid the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International’s annual report documented abuses including those perpetrated against medical workers and journalists.
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