Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but this provision is offset by restrictive regulations enforced by the Ministry of the Interior. The press continued to face daunting challenges in 2004, with official censorship and self-censorship the norm for media practitioners. All newspapers are required to register with the ministry; of the 300-plus journals registered, three-fourths do not publish regularly. Publishers must also submit copies of their newspapers to the Ministry of the Interior for review prior to publication. Authorized sales and distribution typically take two to three days after submission for review. The interior minister can suspend publication of material that discredits Islam or threatens national security. In September, the periodical Al Jamahir was banned by the Ministry of the Interior amid claims that the newspaper was linked to Libya and a coup plot to unseat President Ould Taya. In April, a libel suit filed by a close associate of Taya against editors of four independent newspapers was settled out of court. The settlement was ostensibly forced because prosecutors wanted to avoid disclosures implicating state officials in a corruption scandal.
State-owned media outlets, including the two daily newspapers and all broadcast media, slant coverage to support official policies, although the government tolerates some criticism in all media. Even though all candidates received equal coverage on broadcast outlets in the last national elections held in 2003, access by opposition parties to government radio and television broadcast facilities remains extremely limited. A number of coup plots against the rule of President Taya have kept up the intensity of media coverage against suspected enemies of the state. In June, a reporter and an editor of an independent weekly, L'Eveil Hebdo, were detained briefly by police for reporting a story concerning police abuse of a citizen.
The government owns 2 daily newspapers, and approximately 24 privately owned newspapers publish on a regular basis. Owing to the required review by the Ministry of the Interior of all publications, no newspapers are able to publish on a daily basis. The government owns and operates all broadcast media, including radio, which is the most important source of information for the public. The government has denied requests from private companies wishing to establish radio stations.