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Government positions on press freedom in the Middle East

updated 5:22 AM EDT, Tue October 1, 2013

(CNN) -- CNN contacted the governments of the countries and territories featured in the Press Freedom in the Middle East interactive for their official positions on freedom of the press and policies towards social media.

Below are the replies received as of October 1, 2013.

Bahrain

From the Information Affairs Authority:

"In the Kingdom of Bahrain, all freedoms are protected by the Constitution and the international treaties Bahrain is party to. This includes one's right to express themselves freely, as long as this expression does not infringe on the rights of others (as stated in Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights).

Bahrain has always been a progressive example in the region due to its extremely ethnically diverse environment, allowing it to be a very tolerant and moderate society. With that regard, it also means the Government has a duty to the community to ensure individual rights are not harmed at the expense of one's expression of opinion.

To ensure these rights are secured in a highly volatile environment, the Government has taken the necessary measures to reform the media sector in accordance with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). This includes seeking international consultation from a French based company International Media Consultants Assoices, as well as the establishment of The Higher Authority for Media and Communication Affairs, an independent board which intends to monitor the media and communication sectors ensuring all stakeholder rights are guaranteed.

Additionally, the Government is finalizing the ratification of Media and Communication Laws which aims to protect media personnel in exercising their profession, as well as citizens from any kind of abuse.

It terms of the use of social media, Bahrain has a very active social media environment, and continues to be used as an effective platform to express opinions, network, and reach out to influencers and decision makers. However, this tool cannot be abused by inciting hatred, defamation of individuals to the point of humiliation, and consequently widening the social divide and obstructing Bahrain's strenuous path to reconciliation. This is intolerable for any society.

The Government acknowledges and guarantees everyone's right to disagree with, or dissent from, the Government, and to state those views and opinions publicly, whether its in one of the over 200 authorized rallies in the past year and a half alone, or through the freedom of the press where opposition papers like Al-Wasat publish their criticisms on a daily basis, or even in Parliament. However, when the right is exercised in a manner that is a breach of the very right itself, this is unacceptable. The Kingdom had observed and continues to witness the abuse of the media platforms, particularly through social media, in instigating individuals to harm security personnel, destroy public and private property, and fostering the culture of sectarianism. The community must understand the platform must be used as a catalyst for positive change in a time where it is most needed.

The Government acknowledges and guarantees everyone's right to disagree with, or dissent from, the Government, and to state those views and opinions publicly, whether its in one of the over 200 authorized rallies in the past year and a half alone, or through the freedom of the press where opposition papers like Al-Wasat publish their criticisms on a daily basis, or even in Parliament. However, when the right is exercised in a manner that is a breach of the very right itself, this is unacceptable. The Kingdom had observed and continues to witness the abuse of the media platforms, particularly through social media, in instigating individuals to harm security personnel, destroy public and private property, and fostering the culture of sectarianism. The community must understand the platform must be used as a catalyst for positive change in a time where it is most needed."

Israel

From the Government Press Office:

"Freedom of the press and speech in Israel are expressed publicly, legally and in the media, including the ability to write and publish criticism of the government without fear or censorship, except in rare cases where publication is liable to cause tangible harm to state security."

Kuwait

From the Ministry of Information:

"Kuwait has a long-standing proud tradition of open debate and freedom of speech with free, transparent and inclusive elections and the most robust parliament in the region. The government affirmed its belief in Kuwait's freedom of the media, democratic system and independent judiciary.

"The Kuwaiti constitution which was implemented in 1962, guaranteed the right for every citizen to express his opinion and thoughts on various issues related to State matters. The constitution clearly states in Article 36, 'Freedom of opinion and of scientific research is guaranteed. Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law.'

"The Ministry of Information stated, 'In Kuwait we welcome journalists from around the world to come and report the news and we have a robust domestic press that enjoys the highest level of freedom in the region. Since its independence, open debate has been a cornerstone of Kuwait's culture and the state continues to encourage democratic participation, representation and freedom of expression in accordance with the rule of law.'

"The Ministry of Information reiterated, 'In reality Kuwait's strong democracy was founded on freedom of speech. Free expression is enshrined in Kuwait's constitution and we continue to have an open and democratic society where over two dozen independent newspapers and television channels host lively debates on Kuwaiti politics every day. Furthermore, The Ministry of Information is dedicated to the proposition that no government supervision be imposed on newspapers, TV channels or electronic media prior to broadcast or publication.'

"Kuwait has always been distinguished by its respect for and protection of freedom of speech in social media. Far from politically motivated, Kuwait, like many of the world's democracies, enforces its media regulations through the impartial courts. The Kuwaiti Government is looking to upgrade laws that are related to electronic media. As a constitutional democratic country, any law will be submitted to the National Assembly, the legislative authority, for its consideration. The National Assembly may approve, amend or reject the law. The government is keen that the new electronic media law will not contradict with the freedom of speech that is guaranteed by the constitution."

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