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A photojournalists with his mouth tapped holds up his camera as he demonstrates with fellow colleagues in front of the journalist's syndicate in Cairo against repeated attacks on members of the press in Egypt on April 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD KHALED

Middle East most dangerous region for journalism

The Middle East is considered to be the most dangerous and difficult region for journalism according to a Reporters Without Borders announcement, Wednesday.

North Korea, however, is still the most repressive country to journalists, followed by Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Vietnam, Sudan and Cuba are among the most repressive countries for journalism, according to the Press Freedom Index.

Malta fell 18 ranks after the assassination of investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia.

After the killing of 11 journalists in Mexico, in 2017, this country has become the second in the world in terms of the killing of journalists.

With the continuing armed conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and repeated accusations of terrorism in Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia, the organisation said that the Middle East is the most difficult and dangerous region for practicing journalism.

Nevertheless, the report has brought a glimmer of hope for press freedom in some countries.

For example, Ecuador in South America has risen 13 positions further after easing the tension between the regime and the private media outlets. In addition, Canada, under the rule of Justin Trudeau, has made progress and risen four ranks to the 18th, which made it part of the top twenty countries list that is dominated by European countries.

In addition, Jamaica has made a significant progress after ranking 8th, which made it before Belgium and New Zealand. Gambia, the small country in Africa, has jumped 21 ranks ahead of Angola and Zimbabwe, which have jumped four and two ranks respectively.

As usual, Scandinavian countries topped the list, with Norway ranking first as one of the world’s countries that mostly enjoy press freedom for two years in a raw.

Reporters Without Borders warned that press freedom around the world is threatened by US President Donald Trump, Russia and China, which are trying to crush all the oppositions.

The organisation accused the three major powers of ruling against press freedom, saying that Trump is constantly launching personal attacks on journalists, and Beijing is exporting its “media censorship model” to stifle oppositions elsewhere in Asia.

Reporters Without Borders added that freedom of the press has further declined in the world last year and there has been “an atmosphere of hatred and hostility” against journalists, especially in Europe and the United States, which constitutes a “threat to democracies.”

In its annual report, the organisation said that journalists have become the target of a growing wave of oppression with the leaders’ explicit hostile speeches against them.

According to the organisation’s map of the world, which is based on its classification of countries in the field of press freedom, 21 countries are “very critical”.

The organisation stressed that hate speeches and attacks on the press are no longer issued by the oppressive countries only.

It suggested that the move towards the “strong men” and populist policy, which is fuelled by Russia, is threatening freedoms in the region that has been safer in the past. It also pointed out that there is an alarming situation in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

“Threats against journalists is one of the most serious threats to democracies,” said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders.

He added: “The political leaders who are despising journalists are undermining the principle of public debate that is based on facts rather than propaganda.” He went on: “challenging the legitimacy of the press is nowadays like playing with a very dangerous political fire.”

The hostility of political officials against media is no longer specific to “tyrannical states like Turkey or Egypt,” but has also started poisoning the political atmosphere of some great democracies.

The organisation pointed out that “the percentage of democratically elected presidents who do not consider the press to be a fundamental pillar of democracy, but rather a rival which promotes antipathy, has risen, including “Trump, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The organisation also said that the US president has openly adopted a hate speech and considers reporters as “enemies of the people,” using expressions that had long been used by the Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin.

It accused Russia, under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, of “stifling independent voices within its borders and expanding its propaganda network in the world thanks to media outlets such as Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik.”

The organisation used a harsher tone against Beijing, saying that Chinese President “Xi Jinping is getting closer and closer to a contemporary version of tyranny.” The organisation’s report said that “censorship and surveillance have reached unprecedented levels due to the huge use of modern technology” in his first presidential term.

Reporters Without Borders added that the Chinese government is “seeking to establish a new global media system which would be under its influence through exporting its repressive tools, information control systems and internet monitoring tools.” It also claimed that “there are unfortunately other Asian countries in favour of China’s clear desire to crush all of the general resistance sides.”

The organisation condemned China’s influence and tactics that can be spotted in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

According to the report, Turkey has fallen to the group of the 25 most repressive countries in the world.

The organisation also condemned the spread of “media phobia” in Turkey to the point of the generalisation of accusations of terrorism against journalists and the arbitrary imprisonment of the dissident journalists.

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