Bahrain bans Al Jazeera TV
May 11, 2002 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Bahrain bans Al Jazeera TV Help me out on this one. Al Jazeera is said in the West to be very pro-Arab in all things. Now it is banned in a country that says it is moving toward becoming democratic (even allowing women to vote). Is there a contradiction in banning media as you move toward democarcy, or am I perhaps spoiled by my highschool teachers. NOTE: this is NO troll.
posted by Postroad (7 comments total)
In that environment banning free media might be a necessary part of establishing a democracy. Consider this from one of Thomas Friedman's recent columns:

"In recent months, the explosion of Arab satellite TV stations and Web sites has had a profound impact on Arab public opinion by showing live, nonstop images of the Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank. These TV and e-mail images have fueled massive demonstrations across the Arab world, and in both Egypt and Bahrain protesters have been shot. Could this roiling Arab street actually topple a regime? No — none of the Arab regimes are in any danger right now. But Arab regimes' surviving or not surviving is not the right question. The right question is how they will survive.

"What many are having to do to survive is to slow down whatever modernization, globalization or democratization initiatives they were either pursuing or contemplating and to focus, at least rhetorically, on the old agenda of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The biggest victims of the West Bank war will not be Arab leaders, but Arab liberals — as fledgling democratic experiments are postponed, foreign investment reduced, security services given more leeway to crack down and all public discussion dominated by the Palestine issue."

Maybe the Bahrainis have decided that the passions being inspired by a free media are incompatible with their fledgling democracy. It will remain to be seen if they change their attitude when the I/P conflict finally calms down (if it ever does.)

Also, Friedman's latest column on whether the War on Terrorism is compatible with democracy in Indonesia is very interesting.
posted by homunculus at 6:13 PM on May 11, 2002

It sounds to me like the real reasons why the government is banning Al Jazeera has nothing to do with them being Pro-Israel. "Zionist" is probably a term that Arab politicians reflexively use to attack people they dislike, similar to "communist" or "terrorist" in the U.S.

If my memory serves, Al Jazeera is one of the few television station in the region that is not state-controlled. Arab politicians probably don't like it because it is less subject to government control and manipulation (which is not to say that it is unbiased). Free speech rights always have a tough road to hoe in unstable developing countries because, unlike in the U.S., speech actually can destabilize the government. Even U.S. politicians routinely ignored the 1st amendment in the early years of the Republic.
posted by boltman at 6:30 PM on May 11, 2002

Bahrain is about as likely to be a true democracy in the future as, oh say, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.
posted by mark13 at 6:44 PM on May 11, 2002

I think you're right, Mark13. But even if Bahrain were to become a true democracy, as was said so many times after 9-11: The principles of democracy to not oblige a democratic country to commit suicide in their defense.
posted by Faze at 7:34 PM on May 11, 2002

mark13, I don't expect it to become a republic anytime soon, but as of last year it is nominally a constitutional monarchy, joining Jordan and Morocco; the emir even abandoned his former title, changing it to "King", to underline the change. Interestingly, this seems to come at odds with, or at least at the expense of, Al-Jazeera -- which is seen as a symbol of similar reforms in Qatar since the present sheikh overthrew his father in 1995. No, I don't think these are magically transformed into Western-style democracies, but these are positive moves that should be applauded.

I don't know that al-Jazeera, in and of itself, can be considered a threat -- it's probably lingering suspicion of a free media, which will only ease when Bahrain itself has a variety of voices. Right now, al-Jazeera (whatever its faults from Western points of view) is likely one of the few outlets for any kind of dissident voice in Bahraini politics, no matter how moderate that may seem to those experienced in a more free-wheeling environment.

My key question here isn't necessarily about the banning of journalists, as about the kinds of voices that are now entering the Bahraini legislature. In Kuwait, many of them were Islamists who are happy to sell to us, happy to educate their children at our universities, but stubbornly, even proudly, opposed to making their societies like ours. A view which supports the whole "clash of civilizations" theory, unfortunately.
posted by dhartung at 8:35 PM on May 11, 2002

its just a personal spat. an al jazeera stringer was involved in a menage with nabil al-hamr and his camel. somebody's hump is out of joint.
posted by quonsar at 10:48 PM on May 11, 2002

It says a lot when you have to indicate that this post is not trolling...
posted by robcorr at 12:42 AM on May 12, 2002

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