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WNN Features

Yemeni journalist and blogger Nobel Peace Laureate Ms. Twakkol Karman

Yemeni journalist and human rights blogger Nobel Peace Laureate Ms. Twakkol Karman speaks at the recent May 3-5, 2012 conference for World Press Freedom Day sponsored by UNESCO in Tunisia. Image: U.S. State Department/AP

(WNN) New York, NEW YORK, U.S.: In a detailed report outlining press freedom worldwide, human rights freedom and monitoring organization Freedom House has brought the attention of the world to deteriorating conditions in 63 countries where freedom is not available to the press.

“The analysis found that only 14.5 percent of the world’s inhabitants lived in countries with a Free press, while 45 percent had a Partly Free press and 40.5 percent lived in Not Free environments,” said Freedom House. “…The world’s eight worst-rated countries, with scores of between 90 and 100 points, are Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan,” continued the report outlining gains and losses of press freedom inside the regions outlined by Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Jennifer Dunham of Freedom House.

In spite of declines, gains in freedom of the press do include improvements throughout the Arab world, says the report. Following an 8 year steady decline in press freedom, the ‘freedom score’ is now seeing widespread global improvement.

“We have risen for freedom of the press,” said Nobel Peace Laureate and Yemeni human rights blogger Ms. Twakkol Karman during a recent UNESCO conference for World Press Freedom Day May 3, 2012. “The young have sacrificed themselves while writing, filming and texting in alleys, and streets…to express their wills and to bring down their oppressors,” continued Karman who also said that it may take a second, third or “tenth revolution” to completely ensure human rights to freedom of the press.

Areas that show decisive gains include Burma, Libya and Tunisia. Regions in Africa, including Zambia, Sierra Leone and Togo, are showing a move toward greater expansion of press freedom. The countries of Georgia and Nepal have also shown improvements in the past year, as well as the regions of Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

“Three of the countries with major gains—Burma, Libya, and Tunisia—had for many years endured media environments that were among the world’s most oppressive. Both Libya and Tunisia made single-year leaps of a size practically unheard of in the 32-year history of the report,” outlined Deutsch Karlekar and Dunham.

In spite of internet and text-messaging censure and freedom of the press in Arab Spring regions, as well as Russia, were pushed this year to the limit by widespread efforts of ‘new media and citizen journalism.’ At times the coverage by bloggers, along with Twitter and Facebook activists, outreached the immediacy of the news released by the much larger international news media who have now begun to gather much more breaking news from ‘new citizen media’ resources.

“Even in Syria, where the foreign media, including the influential Qatar-based satellite network Al-Jazeera, were refused entry, ordinary citizens were able to use mobile-telephone cameras to record regime atrocities and prevent the government from escaping global scrutiny,” continued the report. “Nevertheless, events in countries such as Egypt and Russia demonstrated that while new media—particularly when amplified by traditional mass media—can be quite effective at disseminating news of government abuses and mobilizing civic action against illiberal regimes, they play a much less significant role in the construction of democratic institutions, especially in societies where most of the population still gets its information from state-controlled broadcast outlets.”

“Free media transform societies by enlightening the decision making process with information, and thus empowering individuals to take control of their destinies,” says UNESCO. “…As media freedom grows, the strength of the new voices grows in tandem, and their calls for social transformation and positive political change become an unstoppable force,” continues UNESCO.

As numerous gains for news information access is increasing worldwide, the ability for women journalists in Sudan to reach the public is causing them to face increasing dangers says an additional report, “Breaking Through the Silence – Women and the Media in Sudan: Testimony of Four Female Journalists” released by The Equal Rights Trust, an international advocacy group focusing on equality and social justice, on March 30, 2012.

“…the situation of female journalists [in Sudan] – particularly those who directly challenge the
regime – is extremely precarious,” outlines The Equal Rights Trust report.


Quitting her post as Deputy Head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV at the height of the Egyptian uprising in February 2011, journalist Shahira Amin stepped down from her ‘front-row’ seat as someone who was integral to the production of news in the reigon. Why? Because she felt the ‘real story’ wasn’t getting out. Her voluntary resignation was made in protest to the bend in coverage through Egypt’s state-owned media under restrictions placed on journalists, editors and newsrooms. This TEDxWomen December 15, 2011 release highlights Amin’s process in her push for greater transparency and press freedom throughout the region.

For more information on this topic:

  • To see the complete “Freedom of the Press 2012” report link HERE
  • Read the new report on women and internet governance: “Critically Absent – Women’s Rights in Internet Governance,” by The Equal Rights Trust HERE
  • To see more from UNESCO link HERE


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