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Middle East Rulers Wage War On Whistleblowers

The Arab Spring showed the power of social media and grass-roots transparency. Corrupt heads of state were swept out of office in Tunisia and Egypt. But some neighboring kleptocrats are fighting back.

The Independent reported that in September alone, the Iraqi government ‘has forced the head of its anti-corruption watchdog to resign. And a prominent Iraqi journalist, who had been threatened for leading anti-government protests, was shot dead in his home in Baghdad.’

Jordan’s lawmakers passed a bill last month imposing fines up to $85,000 on anyone who publicly accuses another person of corruption without proof. The next day, after a huge outcry and protests by journalist, opposition members, lawyers and others, the Jordanian senate delayed implementing the bill for at least a month.

Two weeks ago, two journalists in Oman were sentenced to five months in prison for reporting alleged government corruption.

In Iraq, the Independent said, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government are trying to strip immunity from Sabah al-Saadi, a member of parliament and formerly head of the its committee on integrity, ‘so that they can arrest him for making allegations against Mr Maliki.’ said several MPs in Jordan opposed to the anti-whistleblower bill ‘blasted that the stipulation aims to ‘fortress corruption and corrupt officials and contradicts the reform principles publicly propagated by the legislative and executive branches.’

Iraq ranks 175 on the Corruption Perception Index, ahead of only Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Somalia. Jordan ranks 50, and Oman 41.

On the Press Freedom Index, Iraq ranks 130 out of 178, Jordan is 120, and Oman 124.

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