Mass surveillance, press crackdowns, and punishing prisoners of conscience — impunity reigns in MENA

A demonstrator confronts a police officer during a rally in support of the leader of the PDL party, and in opposition to the current government, Tunis, Tunisia, 3 September 2021, Hasan Mrad / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Spyware attacks and unchecked mass surveillance

A new report from Citizen Lab and Red Line for Gulf identified nine Bahraini rights workers, including three staff members of IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who were hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware between June 2020 and February 2021. The report found some of the activists were hacked using two zero-click iMessage exploits: the 2020 KISMET exploit and a new exploit dubbed FORCEDENTRY, which bypasses the iPhone’s messaging security features.

Troubling signs in Tunisia

In the weeks following President Kais Saied’s power grab, Tunisia’s political crisis continues to take its toll on the country’s civic space. Tunisian rights groups met on 5 August to form a joint working committee “to follow up on developments in the political situation of the country,” and called on the President to consult with civil society to formulate a “plan of action” leading to a new government.

Algeria’s Arrested Development

The increasing crackdown on press freedoms in Algeria saw authorities revoke the accreditation of Saudi channel Al-Arabiya last month over allegedly spreading misinformation, and shut down the broadcasting of privately-owned news channel Lina TV. The press censorship comes after French public broadcaster France 24 had its operating license in the country cancelled in June over its coverage of anti-government protests.

Prisoners of conscience at risk in Egypt

Exemplifying the despair cultivated in Egypt’s notorious Tora prison, imprisoned blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, aka Mohamed Oxygen, attempted to take his life after months of harassment and harsh mistreatment by prison authorities. Languishing behind bars since his November 2020 arbitrary detention, Mohamed has been deprived of seeing his family for the past 15 months, as well as contact with his lawyers. Representing Mohamed, IFEX member the Arab Network for Human Rights Information was recently barred by prison authorities from even checking on their client’s health despite receiving a visitation permit from the State Security Prosecution.

In Brief

Iran: As the country deals with a fifth wave of COVID-19, prisoners of conscience in particular have been put at heightened risk with several imprisoned environmentalists contracting the virus in recent weeks. Mohammad Najafi, a human rights lawyer imprisoned in Arak Central Prison, was also denied critical health care after suffering a heart attack.

New & Noteworthy

From Syria and Iraq, to Egypt and Libya, impunity for perpetrators of enforced disappearances remains the norm, said 33 rights groups last month. Marking the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the organizations called on multilateral and international institutions to end impunity and ensure accountability for the continued trend of enforced disappearance in the region, as well as to bring redress to victims, survivors, and family members affected by the crimes.



IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email:

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IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: