The Middle East and North Africa is a turbulent area of the world which has undergone important political changes in the last years. Despite some progress since the Arab Spring, the area still suffers from important shortcomings in terms of the promotion and protection of human rights, including the rights CLD works on. The MENA region has been a major area of focus for CLD since the Arab Spring. The organisation has carried out a range of work aimed at boosting the right to information and freedom of expression across the Arab world.
Transparency at the League of Arab States
CLD is currently (2018-2019) engaged in a project that aims to facilitate understanding of and engagement with the League of Arab States (LAS) among key media and civil society stakeholders, as well as to set clear goals for the League of Arab States to improve the conditions for civil society engagement, and, over the longer term, to promote transparency and good governance within the LAS.
A draft paper on on the conditions for effective civil society engagement with the LAS, based both on better practices at other IGOs and the policies and practices currently in place at the LAS has been written and is currently under translation. A workshop centered around the recommendations of the paper is expected to take place in Egypt in the next few months
Right to Information in Lebanon
A regional workshop on the right to information held in Beirut from 8-9 June 2017, bringing together participants from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, and hosted by Social Media Exchange, the Centre for Law and Democracy and International Media Support, has agreed to create a regional network of right to information activists. This commitment was contained in a Workshop Statement adopted by participants.
Media Freedom in the Arab World
In March 2016, CLD was involved in an open public consultation aimed at gathering views from key stakeholders on the establishment of a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the Arab World was launched today. The consultation was part of a regional initiative to improve the performance and the commitment of Arab States to media freedom. It responded to rising concerns in the region, where the temptation to revert to authoritarian practices is strong and where media face greater risks than ever before.
Journalistic Regulation in the Arab World
In March 2015, CLD was involved in a the drafting of a statement setting out a number of clear standards regarding the regulation of journalism. These include that it is not for governments to decide who is and who is not a journalist and that journalists have the right to choose freely which unions, associations and/or syndicates they wish to belong to and that they should not be required – by either the law or their employers – to belong to any particular syndicate. The Statement was developed and adopted at a regional meeting of human rights and media experts held in Tunis from 6-7 March 2015 which was organised by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) working with partners the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), International Media Support (IMS) and Vigilance.
Media Freedom in Lebanon
Following a workshop in Beirut In April 2014, the CLD released a Statement on criminal restrictions on media content in the Middle East. The Statement reflects a strong consensus among experts in the region on the main criminal law problems, and charts a clear path in terms of the basic reform efforts that are required.
Media Law in the Arab World
CLD produced a major publication, the Handbook on International Standards and Media Law in the Arab World in September 2013. The Handbook offers a unique overview of the laws and regulations governing the media in the Arab world.
Media Law in Jordan
In June 2013, CLD released Comments on the 2012 Amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publication Law, specifying their harmful impact and calling on the Jordanian government to repeal the changes. CLD also specifically condemned the government’s use of the law to block media websites (over 300 in June 2013 alone).
Media Law in Morocco
Also in June 2013, CLD released an Analysis of the reforms proposed to four Media Laws in Morocco. The CLD Analysis noted that these reforms contained positive elements, but urged further improvements.
CLD has undertaken several other RTI analyses for MENA States: in October 2012 CLD released Comments on the 2012 draft Constitution in Egypt, in June 2013 CLD released a Note on the Tunisian draft Constitution, in December 2013 CLD made Recommendations based on the RTI rating of a draft Palestinian law and, in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), CLD prepared a Note reviewing a Right to Access Information law in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in January 2014.
Reform of Defamation Laws in Egypt
A Statement released by CLD in August 2012, called for reforms to Egypt’s criminal defamation laws.
Media Law in Somalia
In May 2012, CLD conducted an Analysis of the draft Somali law on Communications. CLD found that the Somali Communications Act of 2012 was a step in the right direction towards creating a proper legal framework for telecommunications and broadcasting regulation, and called on the Somali government to take concrete action by adopting laws that are in line with international standards. In December 2012, following Somali elections, CLD published a Media Law and Policy Review of Somalia.
Right to Information in Yemen
In May 2012 CLD conducted an Analysis of a new Yemeni RTI law, which praised the broad scope and applicability of the law. The law was later amended and the CLD followed up with an updated Analysis in July 2012 which highlighted several problematic changes made to the law, while acknowledging that it remained the strongest of its kind in the Arab world. CLD is also engaging with Yemen’s first Information Commissioner-General, Samir Noman, to assist in the law’s implementation.
Right to Information in Egypt
After the 2011 revolution in Egypt, the CLD produced an Analysis of a draft RTI Law proposed by Egypt’s civil society. The score of 129/150 based on the international RTI rating standard would have placed the draft Law in fourth place globally. Unfortunately, the draft Law failed to gain significant traction and, as of 2014, Egypt still does not have RTI legislation in place.
Freedom of Press in Tunisia
In April 2011 the CLD released a Comment on the proposed Tunisian Press Law, which found that although the draft was a marked improvement upon the 1975 regime of control, it failed to meet international human rights standards.
Journalist Protection in Iraq
Also in April 2011, CLD prepared a Note on an Iraqi Journalist protection law. Although the law featured strong protections, CLD criticised the fact that the law only applied to members of the Iraqi Syndicate of Journalists.