The world goes backwards on media freedom: World Press Freedom Day

Published April 30th, 2017 - 18:22 GMT

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As we observe World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd this week, we have a look at states’ interference in press freedoms in the MENA region and the West. The abuses on press freedom run the gamut from thin-skinned leaders who can’t take criticism to conflict zones that make it difficult for any reporters to do their jobs. But while the MENA region is often criticized for its freedom of speech record, we ask, is the West any better? 

Under the pretext of terrorism, religion, fake news and state security, press freedom is under attack around the world. We focus on incidents that have occurred and laws that have been passed over the last year in Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, France, the UK and US, on what can and can’t be said.

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The Press Freedom Index 2017 shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is grave. The Index evaluates pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10The Press Freedom Index 2017 shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is grave. The Index evaluates pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

(Source: (Reporters Without Borders))

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Journalists in Egypt are mostly detained on the pretext of terrorism. In September 2016, three journalists were arrested accused of 'belonging to a banned organization, inciting violence and terrorism online and publishing false news.' The journalists had been conducting street interviews in Cairo on the economic policy of Sisi.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10Journalists in Egypt are mostly detained on the pretext of terrorism. In September 2016, three journalists were arrested accused of "belonging to a banned organization, inciting violence and terrorism online and publishing false news." The journalists had been conducting street interviews in Cairo on the economic policy of Sisi.

(Source: (AFP/Khaled Desouki))

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In France, police violence against journalists during demonstrations has been on the rise as a result of the state of emergency. Photographers report being attacked and prevented from doing their job by police. 'The police do not want journalists to be witnesses of what they do,' says France's journalist union general secretary.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10In France, police violence against journalists during demonstrations has been on the rise as a result of the state of emergency. Photographers report being attacked and prevented from doing their job by police. "The police do not want journalists to be witnesses of what they do," says France's journalist union general secretary.

(Source: (AFP))

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“Offending the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” is a no-go in the United Arab Emirates. Nasser Bin Ghaith, economist and human rights defender, was given a 10-year sentence in 2017 over tweets that criticized the Gulf country’s involvement in Egypt in support of Sisi.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10“Offending the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” is a no-go in the United Arab Emirates. Nasser Bin Ghaith, economist and human rights defender, was given a 10-year sentence in 2017 over tweets that criticized the Gulf country’s involvement in Egypt in support of Sisi.

(Source: (AFP/Mohammed Al-Shaikh))

Enlarge
In 2016, Germany has passed a new German foreign intelligence agency (BND) law, which allows surveilling foreign journalist if “sensitive” information is at stake. During early 2017, 50 journalists were surveilled, including journalists of the BBC and the New York Times.
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10In 2016, Germany has passed a new German foreign intelligence agency (BND) law, which allows surveilling foreign journalist if “sensitive” information is at stake. During early 2017, 50 journalists were surveilled, including journalists of the BBC and the New York Times.

(Source: (AFP))

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In Jordan, the dignity of the state, religion, and public morals are among the sins of speech one should not commit. Nahed Hattar, Jordanian writer and political activist, posted a satirical cartoon portraying a decadent scene in the afterlife, for which he was arrested in 2016. He was shot dead in front of a court following his release.
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10In Jordan, the dignity of the state, religion, and public morals are among the sins of speech one should not commit. Nahed Hattar, Jordanian writer and political activist, posted a satirical cartoon portraying a decadent scene in the afterlife, for which he was arrested in 2016. He was shot dead in front of a court following his release.

(Source: (AFP))

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In 2016, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.” The bill severely curtails the right to communicate privately and fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources.
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10In 2016, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.” The bill severely curtails the right to communicate privately and fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources.

(Source: (AFP))

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Turkey’s press freedom ends when one starts to investigate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Questions such as: “Is there another story behind the coup attempt?” can land you in jail. The newspaper Cumhuriyet, critical of Erdogan, had many of its editorial staff arrested and its offices raided in 2016.
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Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10Turkey’s press freedom ends when one starts to investigate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Questions such as: “Is there another story behind the coup attempt?” can land you in jail. The newspaper Cumhuriyet, critical of Erdogan, had many of its editorial staff arrested and its offices raided in 2016.

(Source: (AFP))

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As candidate and president, Trump has been on the warpath against US media. He banned access to reporters and threatened to sue The New York Times for reporting on his tax returns. Due to fears of being sued, the American Bar Association decided not to release a report which found that “Trump was bent on punishing or silencing his critics.”
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Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10As candidate and president, Trump has been on the warpath against US media. He banned access to reporters and threatened to sue The New York Times for reporting on his tax returns. Due to fears of being sued, the American Bar Association decided not to release a report which found that “Trump was bent on punishing or silencing his critics.”

(Source: (AFP/Drew Angerer))

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In a move forward, the governments of Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan and Sudan have signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab world as of April 2017. The document includes principles such as Freedom of expression, Freedom of information and Journalist safety. Whether the Declaration will help to protect press-freedoms, remains to be seen.
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Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10In a move forward, the governments of Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan and Sudan have signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab world as of April 2017. The document includes principles such as Freedom of expression, Freedom of information and Journalist safety. Whether the Declaration will help to protect press-freedoms, remains to be seen.

(Source: (AFP/Abbas Momani))

Enlarge

1

The Press Freedom Index 2017 shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is grave. The Index evaluates pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

Image 1 of 10The Press Freedom Index 2017 shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is grave. The Index evaluates pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

(Source: (Reporters Without Borders))

2

Journalists in Egypt are mostly detained on the pretext of terrorism. In September 2016, three journalists were arrested accused of 'belonging to a banned organization, inciting violence and terrorism online and publishing false news.' The journalists had been conducting street interviews in Cairo on the economic policy of Sisi.

Image 2 of 10Journalists in Egypt are mostly detained on the pretext of terrorism. In September 2016, three journalists were arrested accused of "belonging to a banned organization, inciting violence and terrorism online and publishing false news." The journalists had been conducting street interviews in Cairo on the economic policy of Sisi.

(Source: (AFP/Khaled Desouki))

3

In France, police violence against journalists during demonstrations has been on the rise as a result of the state of emergency. Photographers report being attacked and prevented from doing their job by police. 'The police do not want journalists to be witnesses of what they do,' says France's journalist union general secretary.

Image 3 of 10In France, police violence against journalists during demonstrations has been on the rise as a result of the state of emergency. Photographers report being attacked and prevented from doing their job by police. "The police do not want journalists to be witnesses of what they do," says France's journalist union general secretary.

(Source: (AFP))

4

“Offending the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” is a no-go in the United Arab Emirates. Nasser Bin Ghaith, economist and human rights defender, was given a 10-year sentence in 2017 over tweets that criticized the Gulf country’s involvement in Egypt in support of Sisi.

Image 4 of 10“Offending the state’s symbols and values, its internal and foreign policies and its relations with an Arab state,” is a no-go in the United Arab Emirates. Nasser Bin Ghaith, economist and human rights defender, was given a 10-year sentence in 2017 over tweets that criticized the Gulf country’s involvement in Egypt in support of Sisi.

(Source: (AFP/Mohammed Al-Shaikh))

5

In 2016, Germany has passed a new German foreign intelligence agency (BND) law, which allows surveilling foreign journalist if “sensitive” information is at stake. During early 2017, 50 journalists were surveilled, including journalists of the BBC and the New York Times.

Image 5 of 10In 2016, Germany has passed a new German foreign intelligence agency (BND) law, which allows surveilling foreign journalist if “sensitive” information is at stake. During early 2017, 50 journalists were surveilled, including journalists of the BBC and the New York Times.

(Source: (AFP))

6

In Jordan, the dignity of the state, religion, and public morals are among the sins of speech one should not commit. Nahed Hattar, Jordanian writer and political activist, posted a satirical cartoon portraying a decadent scene in the afterlife, for which he was arrested in 2016. He was shot dead in front of a court following his release.

Image 6 of 10In Jordan, the dignity of the state, religion, and public morals are among the sins of speech one should not commit. Nahed Hattar, Jordanian writer and political activist, posted a satirical cartoon portraying a decadent scene in the afterlife, for which he was arrested in 2016. He was shot dead in front of a court following his release.

(Source: (AFP))

7

In 2016, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.” The bill severely curtails the right to communicate privately and fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources.

Image 7 of 10In 2016, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.” The bill severely curtails the right to communicate privately and fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources.

(Source: (AFP))

8

Turkey’s press freedom ends when one starts to investigate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Questions such as: “Is there another story behind the coup attempt?” can land you in jail. The newspaper Cumhuriyet, critical of Erdogan, had many of its editorial staff arrested and its offices raided in 2016.

Image 8 of 10Turkey’s press freedom ends when one starts to investigate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Questions such as: “Is there another story behind the coup attempt?” can land you in jail. The newspaper Cumhuriyet, critical of Erdogan, had many of its editorial staff arrested and its offices raided in 2016.

(Source: (AFP))

9

As candidate and president, Trump has been on the warpath against US media. He banned access to reporters and threatened to sue The New York Times for reporting on his tax returns. Due to fears of being sued, the American Bar Association decided not to release a report which found that “Trump was bent on punishing or silencing his critics.”

Image 9 of 10As candidate and president, Trump has been on the warpath against US media. He banned access to reporters and threatened to sue The New York Times for reporting on his tax returns. Due to fears of being sued, the American Bar Association decided not to release a report which found that “Trump was bent on punishing or silencing his critics.”

(Source: (AFP/Drew Angerer))

10

In a move forward, the governments of Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan and Sudan have signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab world as of April 2017. The document includes principles such as Freedom of expression, Freedom of information and Journalist safety. Whether the Declaration will help to protect press-freedoms, remains to be seen.

Image 10 of 10In a move forward, the governments of Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan and Sudan have signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab world as of April 2017. The document includes principles such as Freedom of expression, Freedom of information and Journalist safety. Whether the Declaration will help to protect press-freedoms, remains to be seen.

(Source: (AFP/Abbas Momani))

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