News / Middle East

Concern Voiced About Media Repression in Middle East

FILE - Egyptian riot police.
FILE - Egyptian riot police.
Brian Padden
Advocates of press freedom are concerned about recent moves by some governments to arrest journalists and restrict Internet access to their citizens. Freedom House is a Washington-based group that supports democracy and free speech activists. The group says these restrictions on freedom of expression undermine both human rights and the foundation of democratic societies.

Charles Dunne is director of Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. He says reports that journalists in Egypt are being harassed and arrested and that a proposed law in Turkey will increase restrictions on Internet access are an alarming turn toward repression in the Middle East and other countries where democracy is not firmly established.  

“Our annual Freedom of the World Report that was released in January did find a trend of authoritarian pushback, certainly in many Arab spring countries, but elsewhere in repressive countries, focusing not only on journalists but on bloggers, even Tweeters in many cases. So this is something that is very concerning to us," said Dunne.

The proposed law to restrict Internet access in Turkey has sparked public protests. The government says the new restrictions are to protect people’s privacy, but Turkish free speech advocate Selin Kaledelen says the purpose is to protect government officials from media scrutiny.    

 “So for me, it's dictatorship of the authorities in terms of law. It's a censorship law, and we don't recognize it," said Kaledelen.

In Egypt, the arrest of journalists with Al Jazeera on charges of aiding a terrorist group has been condemned by UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville.

“It is extraordinary to find this being put into the kind of terrorist dialogue that journalists are supporting terrorists.  This is really an alarming development and we hope it changes very quickly," said Colville.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki says the U.S. government is also troubled by reports of journalists being arrested in Egypt.  

“Any journalist, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt," said Psaki.

She said the United States government advocates freedom of the media and freedom of the press as something that should be respected and valued.

Freedom House's Dunne says freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy, one that empowers people to make informed decisions.

“If people are not free to express themselves through journalism or these other media it has a super chilling effect on free speech, on people’s willingness to involve themselves in politics," he said.

Dunne says while news reports, blogs and social media helped fuel the uprisings of the Arab Spring,  suppressing the media will not eliminate the conditions causing social unrest.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs