The fall of repressive regimes in North Africa and the Middle East in the “Arab spring” has failed to usher in greater press freedom in the region, a global media body said today. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) said that “little progress has been made in installing legislation that will protect the freedom of the press in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
“Governments in other Arab states have been obliged to make concessions to pro-reform demonstrators in order to remain in power, but promises of change have likewise brought little improvement in terms of media freedoms.”
In a report published at the World Newspaper Week in Vienna, WAN-IFRA said that in Syria, a “media blackout helped obscure the full extent of the regime’s brutal crackdown.” In Yemen, it said that “journalists were deliberately targeted in March as state-orchestrated violence erupted in response to calls demanding President Saleh step down.”
“Bahrain’s authorities, with help from their Saudi neighbours, have systematically hunted down, imprisoned and reportedly tortured bloggers and freedom of expression activists who participated in pro-reform demonstrations earlier in the year,” it added.
The report said that worldwide, 44 journalists have been killed in 2011 so far, with hundreds of media employees harassed, threatened or physically attacked. “Impunity prevails in many parts of the world for the perpetrators as they seek to influence or mislead public opinion by targeting a free press,” it said.