The present-day media environment in the UAE counts numerous local Emirati media outlets and major international news providers, which operate alongside each other in a cosmopolitan environment. Yet the restrictive media legislation that has been in force since 1980 means that this environment is also one characterised by self-censorship and government control, and its conditions are worsening.
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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.
In October 2016 Egypt held its first ‘national youth conference’, which was organised to show that the regime takes youth issues seriously, but failed to address critics with appropriate answers, turning to denial or blame-shifting instead. Until this attitude is modified, a youth conference will not change the feelings of disenfranchisement among young Egyptians.
After the 2011 revolution and the ouster of the Gaddafi regime, the transitional government opted to abolish the main newspapers of the Gaddafi era and establish new ones. Private print publications, websites, television and radio stations began to emerge rapidly in this new era of media openness. However, the country’s subsequent civil war and ongoing conflicts have led to a chaotic media environment.