Journalism rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] on Tuesday released its annual list of predators of press freedom [materials; press release], which included the heads of state of several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The list is composed of 38 world leaders and organizations, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile], Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic], whose countries have been engulfed in the recent wave of protests across the region. RSF said:
Freedom of expression has been one of the first demands of the region's peoples, one of the first concessions from transitional regimes, and one of the first achievements, albeit a very fragile one, of its revolutions. Attempts to manipulate foreign reporters, arbitrary arrests and detention, deportation, denial of access, intimidation and threatsthe list of abuses against the media during the Arab Spring is staggering. ... Journalist[s] have been direct[ly] targeted by the authorities or caught in the crossfire of the violence between activists and security forces, reminding us of the risks they take to perform their essential job of reporting the news.Other predators of press freedom include Spain's ETA, the government of Iran and the government of China. The RSF release coincides with World Press Freedom Day [UN News Centre report].
Last month, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials]. The reports cited many of the same leaders and organizations [JURIST report] for violating freedom of the press. RSF's 2010 report [JURIST report] also listed many of the same offenders.