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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Nov 14, 2010

Freedom or Suppression of the Press

A report issued by the United Arab journalists pointed out that journalism and the freedom of the press in most Arab countries are experiencing increasing government restriction. Some journalists have been arrested and others experienced restrictions on their freedom of expression. Some TV networks were even closed. The report also revealed that foreign press and journalists, irrespective of their journalistic reporting, are treated differently from Arab journalists. Is the question that Arab governments fear Western governments, or do they want to send a message that the press in the Arab world is free? (www.aljazeera.net, 10/21/10).

The degree of freedom of the press varies among Arab states. It fluctuates from strict government control to a lesser control in some Arab states. International Journalists Without Borders created a scale reflecting the degree of freedom of the press in 2002. In their latest report, references were made to the ten worst countries in terms of press control. Three of the ten worst countries were Yemen, Syria and Sudan. The best and most free press were Finland, Iceland, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Other countries that were classified as bad and suppressive toward the press include China,Burma and North Korea.

Recently, some Arab countries increased their restrictions on both the print and electronic media. It was reported that the Egyptian government canceled the permits for 17 private TV stations to curtail the spread of ill information and sectarian and religious hate. The free Arab Journalists Association stated that the Egyptian government wants to control the press prior to the election of the Egyptian parliament. The government is preparing a sweeping victory for the ruling party as has been the case for the last thirty years. The Egyptian government press policy has been criticized by the International Journalists Without Borders and some leading American newspapers like the Washington Post. On its front page, the Washington Post referred to the increasing restriction on the freedom of the press in Egypt (Washington Post, 10/29/10).

Recently, the Moroccan government ordered Aljazeera TV Network to close its offices in Morocco. According to official sources, Aljazeera is broadcasting false reports about the Moroccan government. For that reason, the TV network was cancelled. The rationale given by the Moroccan government is not valid. The aljazeera.net offices have been closed before in a number of Arab states because of its influence on Arab public opinion. In my judgment, Aljazeera TV is the most credible station in the Arab world, with a very large group of followers even beyond the Arab region. For that reason and others, Arab governments and high-ranking politicians are concerned about the influence and impact of the free broadcasting on their population. After all, the vast majority of Arab states are run by authoritarian dictators. Democratic institutions are absent in Arab society and as a result there is no accountability, which encourages corruption at all levels. The Arab governments in general have ignored the principle of democratic institutions and instead of progressing they are regressing.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Hani,

    As editor of Broadcast Middle East, I wonder how much press and broadcast freedom really matters to the economic progression of the MENA region. With advertising revenues up and companies expanding by the day, do you think businesses are really bothered if their content is being measured by paranoid governmental bodies? Conversely, do you think that, in order to achieve wider growth globally, the governments themselves are worried that the sanctions they are imposing are frightening off investment from the West?

    By the way as a British journalist I'm not condoning censorship in any way - quite the reverse - it would just be interesting to hear your thoughts. If you want to discuss these matters further please get in touch at sean.williams@itp.com.

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  2. I am responding for Dr. Fakhouri.

    Sean, thank you for your comment. I am currently in Egypt observing firsthand history in the making.

    I will reply to your comment when I return, but I think it is fascinating the role that the media and more importantly the social media has played in this uprising.

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