Independence: Wishful Thinking for Arab Media?
he Arab Spring brought with it many freedoms to the region’s media. But now, many media outlets are feeling renewed pressure from both the old and new political elites.
More than 30 journalists have been killed in Syria. Editors-in-chief get kicked out of Egyptian government papers. Tighter media policies are in effect in Tunisia. And there is increased competition between broadcasters from Iran and the Gulf States. As different as these examples might be, they do point to a general trend in the Arab media landscape since the beginning of the Arab Spring revolts: newspapers, TV and Internet are increasingly coming under government control again - or at least under government observation.
The media in the Arab world are currently going through a complicated and often contradictory development, Soazig Dollnet, Middle East specialist at Reporters without Borders, told DW. At the beginning of the revolutions, press freedoms took a big leap in many of the countries. But then the development came to a halt and “in many countries there are now concerns over a backlash. So there are no grounds for talking about a victory for press freedom,” Dollnet said.
The media’s influence
The reason behind the repressive stance many governments are now taking toward the media is its role during the revolutions. Television, newspapers and the Internet demonstrated to what extent they could influence political developments.
The most telling example was Egypt. The success of the revolution against Hosni Mubarak was closely linked to the reporting of Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera. The network reported, as some pro-government forces criticized, mostly from the perspective of the protesters and adopted their positions. Certainly, Mubarak perceived it that way and only a few days after the beginning of the protests, banned the reception of Al Jazeera.