Police officers are seen in Algiers, Algeria, on March 6, 2020. (Reuters/Ramzi Boudina)
Police officers are seen in Algiers, Algeria, on March 6, 2020. (Reuters/Ramzi Boudina)

Newspapers suspended in 6 Middle Eastern countries due to COVID-19 fears

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Across the Middle East this past month, printing presses have ground to a halt after governments in Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, and Iran suspended the printing and distribution of newspapers, citing COVID-19 fears despite a lack of evidence that it can be transmitted via newsprint.

As part of a series of Q&As with journalists on the frontlines of coronavirus coverage, Slovenian journalist Blaž Zgaga told CPJ he has faced harassment and threats from the government over his reporting. In Kashmir, journalist Raihana Maqbool told CPJ how the continued lockdown has stifled reporting.

CPJ also spoke to journalists in India, Haiti, and Somalia. An editor of The New York Times’ ‘Coronavirus Live Update’ and a New York City housing reporter shared with CPJ how they navigate their jobs in the USA during the pandemic.

Journalism in the time of coronavirus

  • U.S. video journalist shares tips for covering COVID-19: ‘We have to get creative’
  • Iraq’s media regulator suspends Reuters’ license for three months for a report about the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases; and separately in Iraq, security forces beat journalist Mohamed Kader al-Samarrai at a COVID-19 checkpoint
  • In Algeria, three newspaper employees face 10 years in prison over a report alleging a state facility published false statistics regarding COVID-19
  • CPJ finds it “unacceptable” that a proposed bill in the Turkish parliament would release 90,000 prisoners, but no journalists
  • Two reporters charged for spreading ‘false information’ about COVID-19 in the Philippines
  • CPJ sends letter calling on new Malaysian prime minister to respect press freedom


Last week, CPJ launched the #FreeThePress campaign, calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned amid the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the campaign, CPJ published an open letter to world leaders with 75 campaign partners, and jump started a global petition. Join the 6000 people who have already signed and add your name to the call.

Building on this momentum, CPJ and over 80 media and rights groups published a letter this week urging African heads of state to release jailed journalists on the continent. CPJ also joined a letter with partners calling on the Bahraini government to release imprisoned journalists and political prisoners.

Yesterday, CPJ took part in a campaign led by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) celebrating the essential work of journalists covering the pandemic. People on social media used the hashtag #PRESSential and #ThankAJourno to honor journalists working on the frontlines of COVID-19.

What we are reading

Beyond the pandemic

  • Mexican reporter Maria Elena Ferral shot and killed in Veracruz
  • Togo suspends 2 papers after French complaint, and a third for criticizing decision
  • Hong Kong government reprimands RTHK broadcaster over question about Taiwan

[Editor’s note: The headline was updated to correct the number of Middle Eastern countries that have suspended newspaper distribution.]

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