Iraq, Turkey and Egypt crackdown on media

News site offices in Egypt were raided by police and plainclothes security

Small groups of protesters gather in central Cairo shouting anti-government slogans in Cairo, Egypt September 21, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)
Small groups of protesters gather in central Cairo shouting anti-government slogans in Cairo, Egypt September 21, 2019
Iraq is seeking to ban numerous critical foreign media, Egypt raided the offices of one of the few independent media operations and in Turkey, those who oppose the war and nationalism on social media are detained as “terrorists.” The continued crackdown on media across the Middle East is part of a larger crackdown on dissent throughout every country in the region, years after hopes for democratization and more open-minded societies were dashed amid bloodshed, civil war, genocide and religious extremism.
In Egypt, the offices of online newspaper Mada Masr were raided by police and plainclothes security. According to reports, the staff were held inside and phones turned off. Several were detained, including the editor-in-chief, The Guardian reported. They were then released. Foreigners working at the paper were also questioned and had their passports taken. Another editor had been arrested on Friday.
Egypt has faced increasing media crackdowns in the last year, including foreign journalists who have left or been asked to leave. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 25 journalists were arrested in 2018.
In Iraq, media companies have faced increasing threats since protests broke out in early October. In addition, Al-Hurra has been targeted multiple times by the government. In Baghdad, numerous foreign Arabic media were attacked in October, a campaign of harassment aimed at any media that is critical of Iran and which was accused of “inciting” protests. Then, on November 24, it was revealed that the Iraqi authorities are seeking to close up to 12 TV and radio stations. Like Al-Hurra, which was hit with a three month suspension in September, they will be banned for several months. The bans often do not affect the Kurdistan autonomous region, where media continue to operate. Five warnings were also issued to various channels.
This comes as the Iraqi government has sought to shut down the internet numerous times over the last month and half amid major protests. More than 350 protesters have been killed and thousands injured. The ban in Iraq may affect 8 TV channels and four radio stations.
Turkey remains the largest jailer of journalists in the region. With more than 120 journalists in prison, the country continues to arrest people for social media critiques towards Turkish government policy or its recent invasion of northern Syria. Turkey charges critics with “terrorism.” Recently, a court upheld the convictions of 12 former members of the Cumhuriyet newspaper.
In May, Amnesty International visited several imprisoned journalists. They are in prison for “supporting terrorism,” like other dissidents and critics. Amnesty says hundreds have been detained for critiquing Turkey’s invasion of Syria on social media. They are accused often of “supporting terrorism,” just for being against military operations in Syria.
Almost all media in Turkey now is pro-government, and the government has invested huge resources in creating its own propaganda channels and newspapers that only support the ruling party.
Across the Middle East, there is less and less space for journalists who are critical of the countries they are in. Many countries now have state media that is well funded to push propaganda, critiquing foreign countries based on the whims of the government, while never critiquing the home country. Al Jazeera, TRT and other media are based on this model. In addition, there is almost no critique of most governments in the region permitted. Turkey, Egypt and Iraq are examples of this, although Iraq continues to have more diverse media and options than most other countries. Journalists were also recently assaulted in Lebanon by supporters of Hezbollah, and many journalists practice self-censorship, knowing that they will be subject to attacks, deportations or disappearances if they do not toe certain party lines and cater to powerful groups, states or lobbies where they work.