According to the latest world freedom report released by US-based Freedom House, most of the Middle East countries are “Not Free.”
January 13, 2010 1:32 by Aarti Nagraj
The report stresses that the region is seeing increasing violence and a repression of freedom. “Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other influential authoritarian states in the Middle East avoid criticism for their assaults on citizens who seek to improve the climate for rights and freedoms in their countries,” it says.
The report’s findings are not surprising considering the recent clampdowns on media freedom in the region. Just last month, Kuwait (which ranked highest among the Gulf countries last year on Reporters Without Borders’ annual world press freedom index) said that it was thinking about amending its media laws to increase punishments for publishers and broadcasters who produced material that “contained blasphemy, attacks on the Amir or [that] undermined national unity or social cohesion.”
The press and publication law as well as the audio-visual law could be amended to impose a jail term of up to two years and fines up to KD200,000 ($700,000) for violators, reported Gulf News. Violators currently face up to one year in prison and a KD20,000 ($70,000) fine.
Debates about the increasing clampdown on media freedom in Saudi Arabia have also risen, after it shut down the Lebanese Broadcasting Channel (LBC)’s Riyadh office after a Saudi national, Mazen Abdul Jawad, bragged about his sexual exploits on one of its programs.
Elsewhere in the GCC, the UAE’s draft media law came under immense criticism from Human Rights Watch, which came out with a report entitled ‘Just the Good News, Please: New UAE Media Law Continues to Stifle Press.’