2006 has been a bad year for freedom of the press in the Arab world.
Is it good that Arabs are not hearing unfettered news and political analysis?
Is it good that Arabs are hearing JUST the party line in countries like Syria, Yemen, and Saudi?
Is it good that Iranians ONLY hear what’s BAD about the America and the Western powers?
In fact, the lack of freedom of the press in the Arab world, and Iran (which is NOT Arab), is atrocious. Living in Israel has taught me a lot of things, and one of them is that government needs to have strong critics to keep it in line. When the Right gets into power, they need the Left in their face. When the Left gets in power, they need the Right in their face. Governments need fiercely critical, grassroots opposition to be healthy.
But, that fiercely critical, grassroots opposition cannot be effective without a free press.
So, why do I believe that a bad year for freedom of the press is a good sign?
Because it means that governments in the Middle East (and beyond) are feeling the pressure. The people want to be heard, and the governments are trying to keep them from having something to say. The governments of the Middle East are nervous.
And, that’s REAL good.