Algeria

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced sweeping media reforms that will allow private radio and television stations to exist for the first time since independence in 1962.

The moves are a government attempt to contain protests against the lack of freedom, high unemployment and corruption. The reforms will come into effect once parliament passes the new legislation.

A new commission will also be created to regulate the press. The commission will approve press licences and impose fines for libel. Journalists will no longer be jailed for libel, although newspapers could still be banned or suspended if they threaten state security.

Egypt

Former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has testified at the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak. He is the first senior member of the former regime to do so. The trial is taking place under a media blackout.

Egypt’s current military ruler, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak’s defence minister was due to testify on 11 September, but failed to appear. He is now due to appear on 24 and 25 September. The 83-year old Mubarak, his former interior minister Habib el-Adly and six senior police officers face charges of ordering the deaths of protesters in February. They all face the death penalty if convicted. More than 850 people were killed by police who opened fire on the crowds.

The judge was expected to ask Suleiman whether Mubarak gave orders to use force.

Libya

Saadi Gaddafi, son of fugitive Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrived in Niger on 11 September and is under house arrest in a villa next to the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.

Gaddafi’s whereabouts are still unknown and in a statement broadcast earlier on television, he vowed to fight until victory. He is thought to be in southern Libya.

Rebel forces now control most of Libya, although Gaddafi loyalists still hold the towns of Sirte, Jufra, Sabha and Bani Walid.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya’s new administration the National Transitional Council (NTC) gave his first speech in Tripoli on 13 September. Jalil outlined his plans in the newly named Martyrs Square. He said the plan is to create a democratic state based on “moderate Islam”.

Jalil also appealed for more weapons to help the NTC capture loyalist strongholds. Senior officials from Nato countries were due to arrive in Tripoli on 15 September to discuss ongoing military support.

Jalil served as Gaddafi’s justice minister before joining the rebels when the uprising began in February. Jalil said that women will play an important role in the new Libya.

Syria

At a meeting in Cairo on 13 September, the Arab League called for an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria. The league said that until that happens it will not send a fact-finding mission to Damascus.

Earlier, head of the Arab League Nabil al-Araby said that he had agreed with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on steps aimed at ending months of violence. But since then, violence has continued. On 13 September, fresh raids were carried out on anti-government protesters near Damascus.

On 14 September, Syrian security forces launched a new operation against protesters in north-west Syria. Forces entered at least 10 villages, firing machine guns. The UN says more than 2,600 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in mid-March.

Iran

Britain is expected to push the UN for a strong resolution condemning human right violations in Iran. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Iran’s refusal to respond to people’s demands for greater freedom was isolating the country from the rest of the world.

Hague also accused Iran of “breathtaking hypocrisy” as the government voiced its support of the uprisings seen in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

“The actions of the Iranian regime are holding Iran back, isolating its people and suffocating their immense potential and preventing Iran from enjoying normal and productive relations with the outside world,” Hague said at an event to highlight the plight of opposition figures, lawyers and journalists imprisoned in Iran.

Yemen

On 12 September, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh authorised his deputy to negotiate a transfer of power with the opposition in an effort to end the ongoing political crisis. “The president has given vice-president Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi the necessary constitutional authority to negotiate” a power transfer with the opposition, reported the state news agency, Saba.

Saleh is currently in Saudi Arabia, where he has been since June, after sustaining wounds in an attack on his palace compound in Sanaa. Violence is continuing, however. On 14 September, at least two bomb blasts hit security buildings in Aden. In a separate incident, two people died when an artillery shell hit a house in Sanaa.