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Human Rights in the MENA Region

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image by monasosh

Human Rights in the MENA Region

The Middle East and North Africa is one of the world’s most regressive regions for protecting human rights. It has also been a major area of focus for Centre for Law & Democracy (CLD), and the organisation has carried out a range of work aimed at boosting the right to information and freedom of expression across the Arab world.

Right to Information

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.

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.

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.

Freedom of Expression

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.

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.

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.

A Statement released by CLD in August 2012, called for reforms to Egypt’s criminal defamation laws.

In June 2013 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).

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 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.

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.