Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Censorship: Watching Governments, and Watching the Watchers

Repressive regimes restricting what their subjects see and hear is nothing new, but McClatchy Newspapers ran "Middle East censors seek to limit Web access" today.

Rulers in the Middle East doesn't have a monopoly on the power in "knowledge is power" to themselves. In fact, the McClatchy article says that some Arab countries have little or no filtering:
  • Lebanon
  • Morocco
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
Egypt may be off the list soon, though. Politicians there are looking at criminalizing some online activity.

I'm no believer in the idea that everyone should have access to all information: online child pornography is, for the most part, illegal in America, and I don't have much of a problem with that. I even think that restricting access to details of troop deployments in wartime is debatably proper.

Reporters without Borders (RWB) gives a global look at how will journalists think they're being treated. RWB's "Predators of Press Freedom" is a sort of rogue's gallery of leaders with an aversion to their subjects getting facts on their own.

RWB is a Paris-based organization with an international flavor, and names to match.
  • French: Reporters sans frontières
  • Spanish: Reporteros Sin Fronteras, or RSF
  • German: Reporter ohne Grenzen or ROG
RWB's "Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007 / Eritrea ranked last for first time while G8 members, except Russia, recover lost ground" looks like a pretty good ranking resource. On the down side, the list has a built-in bias: rankings are based on questionnaires sent to
  • Freedom of expression Organizations partnered with RWB
  • Correspondents in RWB's network
  • Journalists
  • Researchers
  • Jurists
  • Human rights activists
I take what advocacy groups say with a grain of salt: including the ones I agree with. To RWB's credit, they show how they collected and analyzed the data:The questionnaire was refreshingly objective, overall. I could quibble about a few questions.

For example,
  • "During this time, how many journalists and media assistants: ... 6. Were personally threatened?" I remember the days leading up to a Miller Brewing Company executive getting fired for talking about a "Seinfeld" episode to a colleague of the opposite sex (or should that be 'non-identical gender?'). The threshold of being "threatened" has gotten pretty low at times.
  • "Over the period, was/were there (yes/no): ...Restricted physical or reporting access to any regions of the country (official ban, strict official control etc)?" I think I know what RWB means, but what if a reporter was offended because she wasn't allowed to take photos in part of Peterson Air Force Base?
  • "Over the period, was/were there (yes/no): ...Routine self-censorship in the privately-owned media? Give this a score from 0 (no self-censorship) to 5 (strong self-censorship)?" This has the same problems of interpretation as being "threatened." Again, living in a country where hypersensitivity is close to becoming a right may be coloring my perceptions.
Finally, although the ranked list gives some guide to how tightly the countries control information, the "Evaluation by region" links give a more detailed (and so, I think, better) look at what's going on

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.