Beirut: Regional Consultations on Media Freedom in the Arab World and the Middle East

The Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), organised a consultative meeting on media freedom in the Arab world and the Middle East, on 16 and 17 November 2022 in Beirut, with the participation of Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Credit: IFJ

The meeting brought together journalists, media experts, representatives of journalists' unions, civil society, human rights organisations and members of the Executive Committee of the IFJ to exchange on the most prominent threats to press freedom and challenges facing the media sector, opportunities as well as practical ideas on ways forward. Consultation sessions covered a variety of topics, including regulation of the press sector and journalists, safeguards against interference in the sector and examples of good practices in media freedom legislation and policies across the region.

Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, presented two reports: "Reinforcing media freedom and safety of journalists in the digital age," and "Disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression." Concerns were also raised about the broad restrictions imposed on journalists and press institutions, with a worrying large number of reports of reprisals against female journalists, attacks, threats and arrests.

The presentations included an attempt to diagnose the reasons for the continued restrictions on media and press institutions and the increase in the number of new laws’ repressive provisions, including  prison sentences for journalists.

The IFJ pointed out that one of the main reasons for this situation is the lack of political will on the part of the region's governments to adopt a legislative and regulatory system that guarantees the freedom and safety of journalists, enabling the emergence and prosperity of independent journalism. This situation requires cooperation between journalists’ and various other organisations at the national and regional levels.

Nasser Abu Baker, Vice-President of the International Federation of Journalists, pointed to the importance of adopting the "International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals" launched by the IFJ on the sidelines of the 51st ordinary session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 30 September 2022 in Geneva. He also stressed the role of UN bodies and special rapporteurs, both concerning freedom of expression and human rights. 






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