Friday, February 8, 2008

How governments handle the news

Governments are looking for new ways to suppress news they don't like

The Economist

"PREDICTABILITY is a trait that few would ascribe to the Middle East, yet Arab interior ministers have gathered quietly, every winter for the past 25 years, to talk about how better to secure the regimes they serve. At this year's summit, in Tunis, the security chiefs agreed to toughen rules on publishing, recording or distributing material that might promote terrorism. A worthy goal, surely, except that the region's authorities have a habit of defining as crimes the kind of things their critics would deem legitimate dissent.....

With satellite dishes proliferating even in remote villages across the Middle East, television has proved harder to control by such means. Governments have instead put pressure on the states that host stations. A recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for instance, has produced a marked toning down of news about the kingdom on al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar. The mooted new rules on incitement to terrorism may have been partly intended to stop the channel, still by far the most popular across the region, from broadcasting statements by Islamist militants. But the last time al-Jazeera aired a video from al-Qaeda's fugitive leader, Osama bin Laden, Islamist radicals fumed that the footage was so heavily edited that it completely distorted the message. "

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