Another bad year for Arab press freedom

Once again, all the Arab countries are in the bottom two-thirds of the annual Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF).

This year, tiny Comoros (not in the Middle East but a member of the Arab League) gets the highest ranking in 70th place (out of 178), followed by Lebanon at 78.

Kuwait, the highest-ranked Arab state last year, has slipped to 87. RSF says that is "mainly because of the Kuwaiti authorities' harsh treatment of lawyer and blogger Mohammed Abdel Qader al-Jassem, who has been jailed twice".

Morocco has fallen eight places, due to "the sentencing of a journalist to one year in prison ... the arbitrary closing down of a newspaper, the financial ruin of another newspaper, orchestrated by the authorities, etc".

Tunisia has fallen a further 10 places "because of its policy of systematic repression enforced by government leaders in Tunis against any person who expresses an idea contrary to that of the regime". 

Bahrain, Syria and Yemen have also fallen significantly.

On the plus side, Iraq has moved up 15 places to 130 because safety conditions for journalists "improved substantially in the country", despite several killings.

The Palestinian territories and Algeria have also seen an improvement, with less harassment of journalists.

Rankings of Arab countries (out of 178)

Last year's ranking in brackets

70= Comoros (82)
78 Lebanon (61)
87= United Arab Emirates (86=)
87= Kuwait (60)
95 Mauritania (100)
110 Djibouti (110)
120 Jordan (112)
121 Qatar (94)
124 Oman (106)
127 Egypt (143)
130 Iraq (145)
133 Algeria (141)
135 Morocco (127)
144 Bahrain (119=)
150 Palestine (161)
157 Saudi Arabia (163)
160 Libya (156)
161 Somalia (164)
164 Tunisia (164)
170 Yemen (167)
172 Sudan (148)
173 Syria (165)