2019 World Press Freedom Index: North Africa’s Journalism Under Pressure

Written by | Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

North Africa is a region in which journalists often work in a hostile environment characterized by the desire of leaders to control the media and prosecute those investigating corruption or covering protests and popular uprisings. The only exception to this rule is Tunisia, the only country in the region transitioning to democracy after the Arab Spring uprisings as a result of which it has jumped 25 places in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index from 97th to 72nd position.

Tunisia’s success story was achieved thanks to a significant decrease in the number of abuses against media and journalists and the country is driving several initiatives to support its young democracy. The most immediate one is the launch in 2019 of the new broadcast media regulator, the ICA, in accordance with international standards for freedom of speech. However, elsewhere in the region, journalists are increasingly becoming the targets of prosecutions. Algeria, for example, has seen an increasing harassment of the media, which has fallen five ranks in the Index, to the 141st position.

Libya, which is at the 162nd place, the defamation case brought against the journalist Mokhtar al Hallak in October 2018 alarmed the journalist circles. More and more journalists are fleeing the country or censor themselves because of the political crisis and the security situation, both of which have worsened steadily since 2001. In the meantime, the top 10 countries with the best conditions for journalism and freedom of expression are to be found in Europe – Norway, Finland, Sweden top the list followed by Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand and Jamaica.

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