Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which receives some funding from George Soros's Open Society Foundation, has published its annual index of press freedom, showing drops in press freedom in Bahrain and Kuwait.
Bahrain fell from 119th place to 144th this year, due to the "growing number of imprisonments and trials, notably against bloggers and netizens," which the government justified by the need to fight terrorism.
Kuwait, which usually does well in the RWB index, dropped from 60th to 87th place. The report cites charges that the authorities there have harshly treated a writer, Abdulqader al-Jassem. He has been arrested twice over charges that he attempted to overthrow the government, according to a CNN report on the RWB index..
Al-Jassem denies the charges, “saying he merely wrote articles criticizing the Kuwaiti prime minister and questioning Iran's influence in Kuwait,” CNN reported.
Kuwaiti prosecutors recently summoned several members of the Kuwaiti ruling family on charges of attacking a private satellite TV channel, Agence France-Presse said. The family's lawyer reportedly has denied the charges.
Also in Kuwait, an angry mob attacked Scope TV's studio building in October after the station's director claimed on a talk show that the ruling family's ancestors had attempted to overthrow the government 50 years ago.
Egypt, despite showing some improvements, is still at 127th place on the RWB index. Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman is serving a four-year jail term for "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country's reputation, incitement to hate Islam and defaming the president of the republic."
Israel is in 86th place, an improvement over last year but still eight places behind Lebanon, the only Middle Eastern country that outranks it in the index.