Lebanon’s 21st-century media is burgeoning, with private newspapers, radio stations, television channels and online publications. However, the environment is highly partisan and reflective of the country’s political and sectarian divisions. In fact, the Lebanese media’s most distinctive feature is that all major outlets are affiliated with a particular sect or political movement.
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When King Abdullah acceded to the throne in 1999, there were initial signals that the media environment would become freer. The 2003 Audio Visual Law ended the government’s monopoly on radio and television broadcasting, and in 2007, Jordan became the first Arab country to pass a freedom of information law.
Following the 2011 protests and ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s new political agreement signalled initial optimism for greater media freedom. Yet the country’s ongoing instability and the Saudi-led armed intervention have created an atmosphere of fear that makes the country one of the most dangerous for journalists to operate in.
Qatar’s 21st-century media environment has been largely dominated by the growth of al-Jazeera, which consolidated itself as a major international media outlet after securing unrivalled access to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The channel established an English-language service in 2006 as it continued to expand, however its popularity has since begun to wane amid accusations of biased reporting during the 2011 Arab uprisings, and due to the competitive pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and its own pan-Arab news channel, al-Arabiya.
Kuwait has a relatively open media environment in comparison to its Gulf neighbours, and is ranked highest of all the Gulf states in the Reporters Without Borders 2016 World Press Freedom Index. However, its ranking of 103 (out of 179) indicates that Kuwaiti journalists face restrictions on their reporting and that negative portrayals of certain subjects, such as Islam or the ruling family, remain off-limits.
The government has succeeded in building a strong base to control journalists and the media in Egypt. Many have fallen in line, and often are rewarded for doing so. Those who try to resist are frequently harassed, with allegations of ‘reporting false news’ the easiest way to clamp down further on media freedom.
With the introduction of satellite television technology in the late 1980s, Omanis became exposed to a greater choice of media outlets and satellite channels soon became significantly more popular than the state-owned Omani broadcasts. Oman’s media environment became even more diverse in 1997, when the government allowed the sale of foreign newspapers and magazines that had previously been considered critical of Oman or the sultan.
Egypt’s post-2011 media experience both under elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013) and even more so after army commander general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2013, has been characterized by harsh restrictions upon freedom of expression and a return to a culture of enforced obedience in the print and television industries.