Back to top


Countries from the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) are not big movers in either direction in the XpA data. The region’s countries are distributed across the spectrum, though four of the bottom-ten countries in the world are from this region. Only Tunisia is represented in the top quartile in 2018.

Table 25: Average scores for the Middle East and Northern Africa, 2018

Theme Score
Civic Space 0.23
Digital 0.25
Media 0.26
Protection 0.29
Transparency 0.30
Freedom of Expression 0.25

Figure 34:

Note: Figure 34 shows average thematic scores for the MENA region


Table 26: Top and bottom five scores for the Middle East and Northern Africa, 2018

Country Score
Tunisia 0.77
Israel 0.66
Morocco 0.45
Lebanon 0.42
Iraq 0.38
Average 0.25
Qatar 0.06
Yemen 0.03
Saudi Arabia 0.02
Syria 0.02
Bahrain 0.01


Approximately 34% of the population of the Middle East and North Africa region live in countries which saw a decline in Freedom of Expression scores during 2018.

The MENA region has only two upper ‘outliers’ (countries with scores significantly above the regional average): Tunisia  and Israel .

Dissent in the MENA region continues to be crushed with violence, disappearance, and prison – online, in the streets, and even across borders – and judicial harassment of communicators and activists continues unabated, aided by news laws that enable charges relating to cybercrime, registration, and foreign funding.

In Egypt and the Gulf states, the websites of a huge number of newspapers are blocked, and there is some level of blocking in both Jordan and Palestine. Numerous cybercrime laws in the region provide for online surveillance, and some countries use sophisticated surveillance methods to spy on journalists, even when they are abroad.[1]


[1] Reporters without Borders, 2019 RSF Index: Middle East’s Journalists Deliberately Targeted, available at