(MENAFN - Arab Times) Kuwait was again rated 'Partly Free' in this year's Freedom of the Press Report released Tuesday by the Freedom House.
However, Kuwait, which ranks 57 in the world, is still the best among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-nations as the others have been rated 'Not Free'.
Kuwait's ranking remained same worldwide as did its status of partly free but it went down to jointly fourth in the Middle East with Egypt as Tunisia climbed from its ranking of 85 in 2011 to joint second in the Middle East with Lebanon and a world ranking of 51. Lebanon's rank went up from 53 last year.
On the ranks of other GCC nations, Qatar is ninth in the Middle East and 67th in the world compared to 66th last year. Oman is in 12th and 71st respectively, maintaining its 2011 global rank. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is 13th in the Middle East and 72nd worldwide, while Saudi Arabia and Bahrain share the 16th spot in the Middle East and 84th in the world. Bahrain's rank declined from 72nd in 2011 and Saudi Arabia is down one notch from 83 in the same period.
Meanwhile, Israel is on top of the Middle Eastern countries with a rank of 30 in the world - one spot lower compared to its position in 2011. It is the only country in the region with a status of 'Free'. Libya is sixth in the Middle East and 60 worldwide with a status of 'Partly Free'. Other countries in the region like Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Yemen, Syria and Iran are 'Not Free'. Iran has the lowest rank among the Middle Eastern nations, landing in the 19th spot and 92nd worldwide, compared to 91st last year.
Freedom House's annual survey of freedom of the press around the world found that for the first time in eight years, global media freedom showed no overall decline. The report came out just before
Thursday's observance of the UN-declared World Press Freedom Day.
As usual, Western democracies ranked high in the Washington-based group's freedom of the press report.
But Freedom House marked down the United States slightly for heavy-handed police crackdowns on journalists covering various Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.
In January, Reporters Without Borders dropped its ranking of the United States to 47th in the world in its annual Press Freedom Index, due to the Occupy media suppression, from 20th in the world a year before.
Italy rose slightly in Freedom House's rankings as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi resigned as premier. Freedom House ranked Italy as only "partly free" due to Berlusconi's far-reaching influence, a rare example in Western Europe of a nation not rated as having a "free press."
Britain also was marked down slightly for riot-related press restrictions, and legal "super-injunctions" that bar the media from reporting the very existence of an injunction against coverage of celebrities and wealthy individuals.
China and authoritarian nations in Africa and the Middle East censored news of the Arab Spring, Freedom House reported. In Uganda, Angola and Djibouti, "the authorities cracked down, sometimes violently, on journalists covering the demonstrations."
China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela are cited in Freedom House's report for "detaining and jailing critics, closing media outlets, and bringing cases against journalists."
State control of television and radio is a key means of media control in many nations including Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, China and Vietnam, Freedom House said.
Several democracies degraded the environment for press freedom and were marked down in the report.
"Heightened harassment of journalists trying to cover protest movements contributed to a decline in Chile's status, from 'free' to 'partly free,'" Freedom House said.
Mexico, where dozens of media have been killed in the past decade amid a surge in drug gang violence, "continued to be one of world's most dangerous places for journalists," the report said. Mexico fell to the "not free" status in Freedom House's 2010 report.
"And following a sharp numerical slide in 2010, Hungary was downgraded to 'partly free' due to concerted efforts by the conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to seize control over the legal and regulatory framework for media,'" the report aid.
Of 197 countries surveyed on a wide variety of freedom of press issues, Freedom House found 66 nations rated "free," 72 "partly free" and 59 "not free."
Largely because of China, "which boasts the world's most sophisticated system of media repression," Freedom House found that 40.5 percent of the world's peoples live in a "not free" media environment, while 45 percent had a "partly free" press and just 14.5 live in counties with a "free press."
Freedom House listed eight nations as the "worst of the worst" for press freedom: Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Freedom House is a US-based non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. It was founded in 1941, with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and defeated Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie as its honorary chairpersons.