(CIHRS/IFEX) – The following is an 18 February 2008 CIHRS press release:

Ailing Arab League Undermines Freedom of Expression

CIHRS strongly condemns the document entitled “Principles regulating Radio
and Satellite TV Transmission and Receiving in the Arab Region”, adopted by
the Council of Arab Information Ministers. CIHRS confirms that the
document, disguised by media professional ethics rhetoric, is primarily
aimed at providing a fake national and ethical cover to limit the freedom
margin exercised by the media outlets in some of the Arab countries. This
margin of freedom existed either because of the influence of the global
communications and information revolution or internal and external
pressures for democracy.

Ironically, it is the same Arab League that failed to realize one
achievement for the major Arab issues in Palestine, Iraq, Maghreb Sahara,
the occupied Emirates Islands, Lebanon, Southern Sudan and Darfur, that is
being used as a platform for this “unified Arab” attack on freedom of
expression.

It is indicative that the said document was developed following an
initiative by the Egyptian government as media freedom in Egypt is
seriously deteriorating. This is best manifested by the jail sentences
awaiting five editors-in-chief of partisan and independent newspapers all
at once. In addition, there are hundreds of cases pending at the courts
against journalists as well as defamation campaigns against the press and
satellite channels where government media professionals participate,
claiming that the media is committing violations of code of ethics and
jeopardizes Egypt’s reputation. This is meant to refer to the exposure of
police violations of citizens’ rights and torture incidents. It is
similarly indicative that Saudi Arabia joins such an initiative with its
hegemony over media outlets, not only within the Kingdom, but also
throughout the Arab region.