Between terrorism and abusive counter-terrorism, where was the room for independent journalism? What with the subjects that are traditionally off limits – subjects linked to politics (ruling families) and religion (blasphemy and apostasy) – the list of obstacles to media freedom kept on getting longer.
In open-conflict zones, combatants tried to create black holes for reporting. As it has been for the past four years, the situation was worst in Syria (177th), which saw the most appalling and sometime barbaric abuses. Practicing journalism required enormous courage amid the growing impunity and acute political crises in countries such as Iraq (158th, down 2), Libya (164th, down 10) and Yemen (170th, down 2).
In countries “at peace” (often a police-state peace), journalism was stifled by leaders seeking to maintain stability. This was the case in Egypt (159th, down 1) and Bahrain (162nd, up 1). In Iran, (169th, up 4), the regime continued to imprison journalists and harass the media. The media landscape darkened in Algeria (129th, down 10) with the forced closure of TV stations, Kuwait (103rd, down 13) with the adoption of a cyber-crime law, and Jordan (135th, up 8) where an anti-terrorism law was used to gag the media.
Tunisia (96th, up 30) was the only country in the Arab-Muslim world to experience significant progress in 2015. Many challenges remain in Tunisia but a successful transition to democracy has facilitated media reform initiatives in the past five years. With media that are fairly free, Israel (101st) and Lebanon (98th) also head the regional rankings.