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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More