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Reporters Without Borders slams Arab press freedom

Regional governments are under increased scrutiny after a recently published report from international press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, highlighted the lack of media freedom throughout the Middle East.

Journalists across the Middle East will hope that regional governments take note of a damning report published by international press watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The report, which covered 166 countries including 20 from the Middle East and North Africa, polled three sources from each country, ranging from journalists and researchers to human rights activists and jurists.

Each person received a questionnaire of 53 questions aimed at establishing the degree of independence and freedom allowed within the state.

The questions covered areas including intimidation and violence to self-censorship and independent media, as well as rules and regulations.

Citing a general deterioration in the Arab World, the report stressed that the war in Iraq had "played a major role in an increased crackdown on the press by Arab regimes."

It added that in the hope of maintaining their image and in the face of public opinion largely opposed to the war, governments stepped up control of the press and increased pressure on journalists, who were consequently forced to use self-censorship.

The most 'open' country in the Arab world was Kuwait at a lowly 102, while Saudi Arabia was ranked 156, below both Iraq and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

One surprise may well be the positions of the UAE (122), considering it set up the Dubai Media City and Qatar (115) with its Al Jazeera network.

Meanwhile, the most press freedom came from the Scandinavian nations with Finland topping the list, while Cuba and North Korea were rooted to the foot of the table with consistent human rights offences and no independent media.

Both the USA (31) and Israel (44) were given two separate rankings for their behaviour at home and abroad. In Iraq and the Occupied Territories both nations fell way down the list coming in at 135th and 146th positions.

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