Middle East & North Africa


Attacks on the Press   |   Sudan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Sudan

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.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Saudi Arabia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Saudi Arabia

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.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Libya

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Libya

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.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Lebanon

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Lebanon

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.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Jordan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Jordan

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.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

During eight days of fighting with Hamas forces in November, Israel launched airstrikes that targeted two buildings in Gaza housing local and international news outlets, injuring at least nine journalists. Separate missile attacks killed at least two other journalists. Israeli officials broadly asserted that the individuals and news facilities had connections to terrorist activities but disclosed no substantiation for the allegations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to a written request from CPJ seeking information supporting Israel's claims. Israel's press freedom record suffered in other respects, with lawmakers pushing a bill to dramatically increase fines for alleged libel and impose requirements that news media publish responses from plaintiffs. The bill was pending in late year. Israeli forces continued sporadic attacks on Palestinian journalists covering anti-settlement demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In one case, video captured Israeli soldiers beating two Palestinian journalists wearing gear marked "press" at an August demonstration in the town of Kafr Qaddum. In February, Israeli authorities raided two Palestinian television stations and confiscated the outlets' equipment, citing alleged frequency violations. One, Wattan TV, had been funded by U.S. government agencies, prompting the U.S. State Department to join CPJ's calls for the equipment's return. Press freedom deteriorated in the West Bank as well. In April, the Palestinian Authority blocked several websites seen as critical of President Mahmoud Abbas, while detaining two journalists who had covered allegations of official corruption. PA security forces assaulted several journalists covering anti-government protests in July. In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, assaults and threats against critical journalists continued, and self-censorship prevailed.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iraq

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Iraq

For the first time since 2003, CPJ did not document any work-related fatalities in Iraq. Still, central government officials and Kurdish regional authorities used threats, harassment, attacks, and imprisonment to suppress critical news coverage throughout the year. The central government's media regulator ordered 44 local and international news outlets shut down in June for supposed license violations, but the authorities did not ultimately enforce the directive. Local journalists said the order was intended to be a warning to news outlets that they should toe the government line. In October, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the ambiguous and restrictive Journalist Protection Law. A press freedom group had argued that the 2011 legislation failed to provide any security for journalists while imposing constraints on access to official information. In July, parliament debated a proposed cybercrime bill, which carried a penalty of life imprisonment for violations such as using the Internet to "harm the reputation of the country" and broadcasting "false and misleading facts" intended to "damage the national economy." With no convictions in at least 93 unsolved journalist murders since 2003, Iraq ranked first on CPJ's Impunity Index for the fifth consecutive year.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iran

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Iran

Since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, the regime has continued its campaign against the press by imprisoning many dozens of journalists, harassing and intimidating others, and routinely banning reformist publications. Jailed reporters were subject to abusive conditions that included extended solitary confinement, physical abuse, and denial of family visits and medical treatment. Political blogger Sattar Beheshti died in state custody in November, the third journalist to die in Iranian detention since 2003. Fellow inmates at Evin Prison said Beheshti, 35, had been tortured. The authorities continued to censor the Internet, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites, and announcing the creation of a national Internet that would enforce even stricter controls. In the run-up to the 2013 election, the regime stepped up its assault on the international press. After a Tehran jury voted in late September to convict Reuters on anti-state charges for a faulty video headline, the government suspended the agency’s accreditation and banned its journalists from reporting. BBC journalists were also arrested, questioned, and intimidated throughout the year. In March, the broadcaster reported a “sophisticated cyberattack” on its email and Internet services that coincided with efforts to jam its satellite feeds into Iran. In October, Europe’s largest satellite providers ceased transmission of 19 Iranian state-operated satellite television and radio channels in response to sanctions imposed by the European Union.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Egypt

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Egypt

A new constitution with restrictive press provisions was approved in late year amid heavy opposition criticism and reports of ballot fraud. CPJ and others criticized articles creating a new government press regulator and establishing new state authority to shut media outlets. The new charter also did nothing to halt the criminal prosecution of journalists, a hallmark of the Hosni Mubarak regime. A reporter covering a rally protesting the new constitution was killed in December when he was struck by a rubber bullet that witnesses said was fired by a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Several other journalists said they were assaulted while covering similar demonstrations. Other serious violations were reported throughout the year, including a sexual assault and a number of other physical attacks against journalists. Before the election of President Mohamed Morsi in June, the interim-ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces carried out a series of Mubarak-era tactics intended to stifle media critical of the military. The tactics included the use of politicized trials and interrogations to intimidate reporters, along with the temporary detention of journalists, two of whom were brutalized in custody. The Shura Council, controlled by the Freedom and Justice Party, took a firm grasp of state media in August, appointing political allies as heads of the institutions. Several journalists working for state newspapers reported that critical articles were being pulled. Although Morsi banned pre-trial detention of journalists, the press remained at legal risk. At least six journalists faced charges of "insulting the president" or "insulting Islam." By late 2012, the prosecutor general was pursuing a series of investigations into independent Egyptian newspapers on accusations of insulting the president or reporting false news.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Bahrain

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Bahrain

The authorities continued to restrict critical reporting and independent news coverage a year after protesters began calling for reform in Bahrain. In February and April, the government denied visas to journalists and press freedom groups, including CPJ, and detained and deported several foreign journalists, effectively barring international news coverage of the unrest surrounding the Formula One Grand Prix and the first anniversary of the protests. Despite King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s pledge to uphold press freedom and reform, conditions did not improve. A journalist was detained for months after criticizing a proposed union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and an appeals court upheld the life sentence of critical blogger Abduljalil Alsingace, who has been imprisoned since March 2011. A well-known videographer was killed while filming a pro-reform protest in March.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET


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