The Palestinian media environment is not conducive to freedom of expression. It is dominated by partisan reporting and undue influence from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, in addition to external interference from Israel. Both in the West Bank and Gaza, ruling authorities maintain close control over the content that is produced. The Israeli military is also able to regulate Palestine’s media output by enacting anti-incitement procedures against outspoken journalists.
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After the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign in 2003, and the fall of the Baath party, the Iraqi media environment was rapidly opened up under American occupation. By 2004, over 200 newspapers had begun publishing, in addition to around 80 radio stations and 20 television channels. The Iraqi public were also quick to purchase satellite dishes and receive transmissions from abroad. A revised constitution created in 2005 enshrined media freedom, further adding to initial optimism about a new era for the Iraqi media. However, repressive government measures, exacerbated by sectarian tensions, violence and the seizure of territory by Islamic State (ISIS), have made the country one of the most hostile environments for journalists to operate in.
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.
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.
Sheikh Mohammed was keen to initiate reforms and transform Dubai into an international trade and tourist hub while also making it less reliant on dwindling oil reserves. He thus launched several initiatives to further the emirate’s modernization and development process. Known as a man generally not satisfied with the status quo, Sheikh Mohammed’s first shake-up as prime minister came in April 2007, when he announced a strategic review of the UAE’s governance at both the federal and local government levels.
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.
Anything that challenges the Wahhabi understanding of the Islamic faith (such as the sanctity and holiness of the Prophet’s companions) is subject to criminalization under the banner of sacrilegious behaviour. Punishments for blasphemy and apostasy include lengthy prison sentences, physical torture in the form of public flogging and, occasionally, death sentences.