Press freedom languished despite the establishment of a new government under President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Anti-government demonstrations continued as protesters demanded deeper reforms than those offered by Hadi's administration. Critical independent journalists were assaulted, threatened, and harassed from multiple sides. In February, armed men belonging to an influential tribal group attacked a journalist who had reported critically about the clan. The same month, supporters of former President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh seized the offices of two state-run newspapers and forced them to publish Saleh's picture on the front page. In May, the Press and Publications Court summoned two Al-Jazeera journalists for trial on charges that they had reported on the 2011 uprising without accreditation. The trial was pending in late year. The government debated an Audio-Visual and Electronic Media bill that was first proposed by the Saleh administration in 2010. CPJ's review of the legislation found it would impose exorbitant registration and licensing fees, among other restrictions. The bill was pending in late year. No journalists were killed during the year, a drop from 2011 when two fatalities occurred during coverage of anti-government protests.
Two years after the revolution that overthrew Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, press freedom in Tunisia slid backward. Since the newly elected government assumed office in January, the authorities took several worrying steps that included the appointment of government allies as new heads of state television, radio, and print outlets. In April, three journalists were beaten while covering a protest, and in July, police officers attacked two journalists who were filming a collision involving a police cruiser and a train. In August, the authorities issued an arrest warrant for the head of a private television station, a Ben Ali ally who also hosted a satirical show mocking current government figures. In February, the authorities detained and fined three journalists for publishing a nude photo. Journalists said the government was ignoring two media laws adopted in November 2011 that were modeled on international press freedom standards, instead enforcing the previous, repressive laws. Members of the National Authority to Reform Information and Communication, a special commission set up to bring about media reforms, resigned en masse in July citing the government's lack of commitment to press freedom.
Conditions for the press deteriorated severely since Syria's uprising began in 2011. The Syrian government continued its media blackout by barring entry to most international journalists and controlling local news coverage. Foreign journalists resorted to smuggling themselves into the country, most across the borders with Turkey and Lebanon, to report on the conflict. Citizen journalists took extreme risks to videotape and document the unrest. Dozens of journalists were imprisoned over the course of the year and some were reportedly tortured in government custody. Local and international journalists were abducted by the government, the rebels, and non-Syrian Islamic extremist groups. Some remained missing in late year. With 28 journalists murdered, targeted by sniper fire, or killed in crossfire, CPJ ranked Syria as the most dangerous country in the world for the press in 2012. Although many of the fatalities were at the hands of government forces, numerous attacks against journalists or news outlets seen as pro-government were attributed to rebel forces, including two explosions at a TV station.
Journalists struggled to carry out their work freely as the space for independent reporting diminished in Sudan. Khartoum intensified its crackdown against journalists with a record number of detentions, newspaper confiscations, and closures, leading to significant financial losses for many newspapers and layoffs among journalists. In June, protests against austerity measures and rising fuel prices quickly evolved into anti-government demonstrations. As journalists attempted to cover these historic events, the National Intelligence Security Services warned journalists not to cover the protests, detained several foreign and local journalists who did, confiscated newspapers that dared to mention the demonstrations, and blocked three critical websites. By August, the government had quashed the protest movement. The authorities continued to suppress coverage of Sudan's conflict with South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, and kept a particularly tight lid on information involving the fighting in oil-rich South Kordofan.
The Kingdom continued severe censorship of any critical reporting, taking special measures to obstruct coverage of protests in Eastern Province calling for political reform and greater rights for the country's Shia minority. Foreign and local journalists were forbidden to enter the province, where demonstrations had begun in February 2011. Imprisonments ticked up during the year. In February, the authorities arrested three online journalists reporting on Eastern Province protests and blocked their news websites. During the same month, a former columnist faced death threats for Twitter postings detailing an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammad. He was later jailed on blasphemy changes that could bring the death penalty. Restrictive laws suffocate independent coverage in traditional media, a sector in which editors are government-appointed. Beginning in 2011, online journalists became subject to the same harsh controls that apply to traditional news media. Self-censorship is widespread, and international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation.
The press began to blossom amid the political transition that followed the 2011 uprising that ended Muammar Qaddafi's repressive rule. A burgeoning private media sector emerged with the launch of dozens of independent newspapers and other news outlets. Despite these notable improvements, journalists continued to face attacks, mostly from local militias and other armed groups that often detained people at whim. In February, a local militia in Tripoli seized two British journalists for almost a month. In July, two Libyan television journalists were kidnapped after covering the country's first elections in decades. In May, the then-ruling National Transitional Council passed a law criminalizing the glorification of Qaddafi, but the Supreme Court struck down the measure as unconstitutional the next month, a historic move that reflected an emerging commitment to free speech.
Lebanon's press climate, while better than its neighbors, suffered in 2012 as the uprising in Syria spiraled into civil war. In April, Syrian security forces shot and killed a Lebanese journalist covering the conflict from the Lebanese side of the border. Within the country, journalists faced significant risk while covering protests for and against the Syrian regime. In May and June, for example, nine journalists were attacked in four violent episodes during demonstrations. In September, the authorities detained for nearly a month a Lebanese-Palestinian journalist who frequently covered arms smuggling into Syria. In October, the rebel Free Syrian Amy abducted a Lebanese journalist working in Syria and held him captive for a week. Lebanese authorities negotiated his release.
Although Jordanian news media enjoy greater freedom than the press in many other Arab countries, the kingdom took a significant step backward with the approval of amendments to the Press and Publications Law in September 2012. The law imposed new restrictions on online news content, required sites to obtain official licenses, and gave the authorities powers to block domestic and international websites. Journalists, outraged by the move, protested against the government, and website owners refused to apply for licenses. Criticism of the royal family or the monarchy remained off-limits for all media. One journalist was detained for three weeks for writing an article that alleged misconduct in the Royal Court, and a critical blogger was stabbed by an unidentified assailant after she published an article criticizing Prince Hassan bin Talal.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.