Middle East and North Africa | Page 164 | Freedom House

Middle East and North Africa

The Arab Spring of 2011 launched an era of sweeping political changes in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which has historically been the least free region in the world. The fall of longtime leaders and the people's rising demands for a stronger voice in their own governance have brought new opportunities for reform and democratic transition in countries otherwise marked by severe abuses of almost all fundamental political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House is helping citizens to realize these aspirations through a variety of programs across the region. Our work in this region is summarized here.

Asterisks in the country list below indicate a territory rather than a country.

Countries & Territories: 21
420 million people
5% free
Press:
0% free

Percent computed by population. Population source data.

News & Updates

According to Amnesty International, a leaked version of a new draft anti-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia would give wide-ranging powers to the Minister of the Interior, allowing him to subvert due process in the name of national security without judicial oversight, further endangering freedom of expression and association in that country. Under the draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism, criminal actions that can be labeled terrorist acts are defined in overly broad terms that could potentially be used to deter peaceful protest as well as restrict dissenting opinions and target political opposition. The legislation is currently has been reviewed by a government security committee and it is unknown if and when it might pass.

Journalist and academic Antoine Sfeir filed a defamation suit against Tunisian blog Nawaat.org over an article published online in March 2011: “Ben Ali’s dictatorship’s Lebanese sycophants.” The site received a letter from Sfeir’s lawyer on June 16 demanding the article be withdrawn within 48 hours, or face libel action. Four additional websites that reprinted the article received the same warning to take down the piece, but refused to comply in an effort to uphold freedom of expression and press freedom. Sfeir claimed he did not want the entire article removed, just the portions that accused him of personally receiving money from the former president Ben Ali.

Riot police attempted to stop a demonstration in Amman, Jordan, attacking demonstrators who were advocating for reform. Nearly 2,000 Jordanians were walking from a local mosque to the city hall when police attacked protesters with wooden clubs and batons. Government officials gave journalists orange vests to wear and claimed they would not be harmed. Yet, reporters from Reuters, Al Jazeera, AFP, New York Times and other media outlets were among the 10+ journalists hurt in the protests. The protests were organized by youth groups, and attended by labor unionists and Muslim Brotherhood members.

At least twenty people were killed and more than 100 injured on July 15, as hundreds of thousands of Syrians demonstrated across the country against President Bashar al-Assad and the imprisonment of Syrians. Citizens attempted to block security forces from entering the area and damaging buildings. Forces fired live ammunition and teargas at protesters in the capital of Damascus and various suburbs. Activists organized the countrywide demonstrations via Facebook—these have been the largest demonstrations held to date.

Pages

Experts

Research Director, Technology and Democracy

Adrian Shahbaz is the Research Director for Technology and Democracy at Freedom House.

Director, Middle East and North Africa Program

Dokhi Fassihian is the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program. Before joining Freedom House, she led several nongovernmental organizations working in the area of democracy and human rights and promotion.

Issues: 
37 million people
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
5.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
82 million people
Internet:
Not Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
6.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
68
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
79 million people
Internet:
Not Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
6.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
85
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
34 million people
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
5.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
7.9 million people
Press:
Partly Free
Status
Free
Scores Overview
2.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
6.3 million people
Internet:
Partly Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Partly Free
Scores Overview
5.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
53
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
2.9 million people
Press:
Partly Free
Status
Partly Free
Scores Overview
5.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
4.3 million people
Internet:
Partly Free
Press:
Partly Free
Status
Partly Free
Scores Overview
5.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
46
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
6.5 million people
Internet:
Partly Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
6.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
54
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
33 million people
Internet:
Partly Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Partly Free
Scores Overview
5.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
45
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
3.1 million people
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
5.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
1.9 million people
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
5.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
29 million people
Internet:
Not Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
7.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
72
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
23 million people
Internet:
Not Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
7.0 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
86
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
11 million people
Internet:
Partly Free
Press:
Partly Free
Status
Free
Scores Overview
2.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
38
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
8.1 million people
Internet:
Not Free
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
6.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating
69
(0 = Best, 100 = Worst) / 100 (least free)
Internet Freedom
26 million people
Press:
Not Free
Status
Not Free
Scores Overview
6.5 / 7 (least free)
Freedom Rating

Programs

Freedom House supports democracy and human rights leaders across the Middle East and North Africa region in exposing human rights abuses and pressing for reform.

Issues: 

The Lifeline Embattled CSO Assistance Fund provides emergency financial assistance to civil society organizations (CSOs) under threat or attack and advocacy support responding to broader threats to civil society. 

Freedom House administers several funds which offer emergency assistance to organizations and individuals around the world who are under threat because of their human rights work.

Freedom House has worked to strengthen freedom of expression and human rights in Tunisia, where the country’s recent efforts at democratic consolidation created opportunities to adopt new laws.