Kuwait, Qatar top in press freedom: Report


But the interference of a newspaper owner in the content of media material is found to be the highest in Qatar among all the Arab countries which the report focuses on.

Qatar is assigned 30 percentage points on a scale of 100 in this regard whereas Lebanon and Egypt are given 20 points each. Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait are at the bottom of the list with 10 points each.

However, as regards overall press freedom, Kuwait and Qatar rank high on the list with 88.38 and 85.17 percentage respectively, on a scale of 100, the Amman-based Centre for Human Rights Studies said.

Twenty Arab states figure on the list with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen figuring at the bottom of the list-all of them scoring less than 50 percentage points.

Besides Qatar, two other GCC states figure among the top 10 countries with a higher degree of press freedom on the list of 20 are the UAE (fourth) and Bahrain (tenth).

Qatar ranks second when it comes to having laws that restrict the press. The country which tops the list is Egypt. Jordan, the UAE, Morocco and Yemen have relatively less stringent laws. Qatar also figures on the list of Arab countries which impose restrictions on the freedom of expression and opinion.

Bahrain tops the list when it comes to controlling Internet websites followed by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. Qatar also figures on the list but with a low percentage.

However, the censorship of the Internet is quite prevalent in Qatar and it ranks second with Saudi Arabia in this regard. Libya tops the list.

Foreign journalists are not harassed in Qatar. Surprisingly, in the UAE the incidents of harassment of foreign media workers is high. It is the highest in Tunisia and Palestine.

Iraq is the most dangerous country for a journalist to work in. Since the present crisis began, 47 scribes have been killed there. In Sudan, a journalist was slain in a brutal way.

No Arab country has a law which guarantees the right of access to information. Providing information to the press is considered as a favour being done by the government and not out of respect for the right of the people to know.

Journalists are referred for trial by military tribunals in a number of Arab countries.

The laws prohibiting slander are used in most Arab countries to suppress the press and to make it refrain from criticising the actions of government officials.

Many press associations and societies are reluctant to hold training programmes to raise the efficiency of the journalists.

Some Arab governments and their services use advertisements as a carrot to reward the newspapers which toe the official line while denying the advertising revenue to the publications which are critical of public policies.

The Arab countries still have a long way to go to make their laws and practices compatible with international norms and criteria, notes the report.

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