News / Middle East

Arab Spring Brings Successes and Setbacks for Media Freedom

William Ide

The Arab Spring uprisings successfully uprooted several long-standing authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa, and led to elections in Tunisia, and next month in Egypt.  But the shift from decades of authoritarian rule to a more open and free society has been bumpy in some cases.  And challenges to press freedom persist across the region.

When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned this year, expectations were high that the Arab Spring would bring a blossoming of media freedom.

But analysts note that events like the government's recent crackdown on protestors in Cairo -- and state media's coverage of the riots -- are only small examples of the challenges journalism continues to face.

In their coverage of the protests, state media not only claimed the protestors were armed, but also urged the public to come out and support the military.

Adel Iskandar is an Arab media analyst at Georgetown University here in Washington.

"This was sort of a reminder that even the state media, the state broadcasters, the state journalistic institutions -- they haven't actually reformed, but have deteriorated in the manner in which they treat news," Iskandar said.

Independent news organizations disputed Egyptian state media's reporting of the protests.  The military held its own news conference and praised state media for its coverage.

According to journalists in Egypt, the transitional council has on numerous occasions interfered with programming.

Yosri Fouda recently suspended his popular talk show "The Final Word" indefinitely to protest government efforts to stifle free expression.

"We're seeing this tug of war between media institutions that are trying to affirm and assert their freedom to cover stories.  And the military, trying to control the political situation, so it doesn't get out of hand for them," Fouda said.

Karin Karlekar of the U.S.-based human rights group Freedom House agrees.

"The impetus to reform hasn’t really happened with the military transitional government.  There have been quite a few crackdowns -- both in terms of arrests of [Internet] bloggers and other types of legal restrictions or sort of saying no one can criticize the military government," Karlekar said.

Karlekar says the prospects for media reform look better in Tunisia -- the country that ignited a string of uprisings across the region and held landmark elections last Sunday.

"Tunisia did pass a freedom of information law recently, which was a really good step.  There have been discussions on legal and regulatory reform.  And there have been a lot of local groups, unions, press freedom organizations that have been involved in those discussions," Karlekar said.

In Syria, where an uprising has been going on for months, analysts say the space for broadcast media is so limited that the Internet remains the only source of information.

"We are talking about a protest movement that began in mid-February.  So this is a fairly lengthy period of time to not have access to reliable, easily corroboratable information," Iskandar said.

Footage which purportedly shows Syrian forces shelling the city of Homs on Wednesday is one example of how media access remains tenuous because it can not be independently verified.  Under such conditions, media analysts say it is amazing that the protests have managed to last as long as they have.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid