AMMAN, 13 Jun 2006 (IRIN) – Media in the Arab world operates in an environment that restricts freedom of opinion amid ongoing state control over major news organisations, according to a recent survey conducted by the Amman Human Rights Centre (AHRC).
Ã¢??Arab regimes are increasingly imposing restrictions on journalists to prevent them from exposing their practices, mostly in terms of corruption and human rights,Ã¢?Â said AHRC head Neham Assaf. Ã¢??There are more taboos every day, and journalists find themselves targeted by police, the judiciary system, political parties and even armed groups.Ã¢?Â
The report, published on Monday, went on to state that at least 24 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2005, while 11 others were kidnapped. The report stated that journalists in both Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territories face daily threats to their lives. Ã¢??Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza continue to be the most dangerous places for journalists to conduct their work,Ã¢?Â Assaf said. Ã¢??They must be provided with protection in order to tell the truth.Ã¢?Â
Over the course of last year, the study monitored the press in 16 Arab countries, including Jordan; the United Arab Emirates; Bahrain; Algeria; Sudan; Iraq; Egypt; Algeria; Kuwait; Yemen; Tunisia; Djibouti; Palestine; Lebanon; Libya; and Syria. Assaf pointed out that his organisation Ã¢??faced difficulties in monitoring the press in Saudi Arabia and OmanÃ¢?Â.
Jordan scored the highest marks in terms of press freedom, in light of a recent draft law aimed at guaranteeing the right of access to information, according to the report.
Tareq Momani, head of Jordan’s press association was not surprised by the surveyÃ¢??s findings. Ã¢??It will be a long time before media freedom in the Arab world improves, due to the political climate in the region,Ã¢?Â he said. Ã¢??The majority of media outlets are owned by governments, directly and indirectly, while the independent media isnÃ¢??t given a fair chance to compete amid restrictive laws and other hurdles put in front of journalists.Ã¢?Â
Reporters San Frontiers reported last year that media freedom in the region stood at the bottom of its international list, with Jordan ranking 96th globally and third in the Arab world. Kuwait, meanwhile, which came in first among the Arab countries, was ranked 85th worldwide. [source]