Sunday, 1 June 2008


Here's a sobering read for anyone that thinks media freedom is a good thing: the World Association of Newspapers represents over 18,000 newspapers and its report into media freedom in the world today cites abuses of freedom of expression on a truly global basis.

"In the Middle East and North Africa, the past six months have been marked by a number of setbacks in the area of press freedom, mainly due to autocratic regimes that do not hesitate to take drastic measures to prevent independent voices from making themselves heard. Bloggers throughout the region continue their relentless battle to spread news and information ignored or censored by the mainstream media."

I do find it interesting that the WAN, a body representing the 'mainstream media', made that comment about bloggers in the Middle East, although I do hasten to point out that this particular blog is involved in a relentless battle to be daft and of no particular value to anyone. There are a number of blogs and websites that are challenging traditional thinking on media ownership and the role of media in the Middle East. Before, back in the good old days, you could just make sure that only trusties could own licenses to publish. Now the very nature of what 'publishing' is has been upended by the Internet. The UAE publishing law is, of course, desperately out of date and we still await new regulations that reflect the world around us - and the UAE isn't alone. Globally, much legislation has fallen behind the rapid transformations and innovations that Internet technologies are driving.

Meanwhile, seven journalists have died in Iraq since November 2007 and Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, namechecked by the WAN report, was killed by an Israeli tank whose crew couldn't read the word PRESS on his distinctive blue flak jacket. The shell that killed him, shamefully, was an anti-personnel flechette round that launched thousands of tiny, evil little darts buzzing like angry, deadly black steel mosquitoes into the still air around him: a hail of shaped steel shards that cut him down as he stood there with a camera on his shoulder filming his own death.

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