An international media advocacy group says Iran has jailed the most journalists in the Middle East, placing it among the four worst nations in the world for press freedom.

In its annual World Press Freedom report, released Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders said eight journalists are currently being held in Iran, and many others face imprisonment for criticizing the government. The Paris-based group said Iranian journalists are often the target of aggressive behavior by authorities who do not tolerate criticism.

The report also cites Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories for significant violations of press freedom. The group said it is concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship in Egypt, and with the conviction this year of a blogger who criticized the Egyptian president.

Reporters Without Borders says journalists in the Palestinian territories are threatened with hostage-taking, arrests and physical attacks as a result of fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

In Iraq, the group said armed factions frequently target journalists. It said authorities are not able to find a way to put an end to the violence.

The media rights group said there has been some progress by Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar due to liberalizing press laws. But it said self-censorship continues to be widespread in these countries.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.