Muslim countries ranked among the worst for media freedom

Muslim nations have performed very poorly in a new survey which ranks countries according to media freedoms.

The annual World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders listed 13 Muslim nations in its bottom 20 places.

The lowest ranked Muslim nation was Turkmenistan which RWB described as “an ever-expanding news black hole.”

The report says the government controls all media and the few Internet users are able to access only a highly-censored version of the Internet, often in Internet cafés in which they must show ID before being able to go online. And in recent years several journalists have been arrested, tortured, physically attacked or otherwise forced to stop working.

Major Muslim countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia also appeared in the bottom 20 places.

The report describes Iran as one of the world’s most repressive countries for journalists for the past 40 years, with state control of news and information being “unrelenting” and at least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists being imprisoned or executed since 1979.

Senegal has the freest media in the Muslim world

Meanwhile, according to the report Saudi Arabia permits no independent media and the authorities keep Saudi journalists under close surveillance, even when they are abroad, as Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul in October 2018 illustrated. And despite his talk of reform, RWB says Mohammad bin Salman has intensified the repression since his appointment as Crown Prince in June 2017.

On the other hand, the highest ranked Muslim country was Senegal in 47th place.

Regarded as one of Africa’s most stable democracies, Senegal enjoys a diverse media landscape, according to the report. The 2001 constitution guarantees the freedom to inform, and abuses against journalists have been relatively infrequent in recent years. However, some subjects continue to be off-limits and the staff of several media outlets have been summoned and subjected to intimidation for covering corruption.

The top places in the World Press Freedom Index were dominated by Scandinavian and other European countries with Norway topping the list.

The United Kingdom came in 35th place with domestic trends remaining a “cause for concern.”

RWB said Wikileaks founder Julian Assange received a disproportionate prison sentence of 50 weeks for breaking bail. The Home Secretary also gave the green light to the court to consider the U.S.’s extradition request, and Assange remained in custody at the high security Belmarsh Prison despite widespread international concern for his health and treatment, including by the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture.

RWB added that counter-terrorism and crime legislation adopted during the year contained worrying provisions that could restrict reporting and put journalists’ data at risk.

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