Censorship in the Middle East

Censorship is a topic that has always interested me greatly, and the use of censorship to monitor and contain the transfer of information is one topic I feel very passionate about. Imagination of a 1984 inspired version of public thought suppression has led me to research this area in the past, and has tonight led me to wonder what censorship is like in the Middle East. What I learned shocked me. The majority of the nations in the Middle East censor their media, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Turkmenistan, and do so almost blatantly. Some of these nations outright block internet activities most often because of “morality” or “national security”, and some others prefer to closely monitor online activities and then detain those who are determined deviants. In 2012, Iranian blogger Sattar Besheti was arrested and killed under torture while within Iran’s Cyber Police detainment in regards to online media use. With incidents like this it makes one question what the true goals of these states are. It is my belief that this censorship is not done to protect it’s citizens morality or it’s nations security, but rather to limit the knowledge their citizens have access to as to preserve their own power.


Another thing that really shocked me was how many of these citizens are in favor of government censorship of their media. An average of 70 percent of people living in Arab countries reported that they are in favor of the censoring of entertainment programs. This confused me – why would so many people be in favor of their information being censored? A little digging and consideration showed me the answer – fear. Many of these citizens are genuinely afraid that certain media could have malicious affects on their morality or their position in their religion, and therefore are fine with their government’s censoring.

One thing I wish the first study would’ve explored is what exactly respondents would characterize as “offensive” content, but this begins to paint a picture. I suppose this may be a matter of perspective. I’ve grown to seek truth and information in my life, and would be abhorred by the idea of my access to information being angled or manipulated. But I have been raised with an allowance to explore any knowledge I desire, and without the fear of consequence for this that many others unfortunately have. This brought on a sort of thoughts I hadn’t considered. If a group of people would prefer to have their government censor their media, is it then the correct thing to do? Or do people have an intrinsic right to access to information? I believe I personally lean more to the latter, but this question has no easy answer.


6 thoughts on “Censorship in the Middle East

  1. I think that censorship and acceptance of it deals completely with one’s upbringing and culture. To the citizens of the Middle East, I think they are completely okay with this media manipulation because they have dealt with this all of their lives, and do not feel the need to challenge it. I do think fear has something to do with it as well, just because the media itself can be manipulative and hinder the beliefs of others as well as put ideas into people’s heads. I think this is shocking to us Americans because of the freedom we are automatically given for just being an American. If our freedom of speech was manipulated and censored from the beginning, I think that we would accept these regulations and just conform to the idea of this and not rebel against it, or in fact think anything of it.

  2. I definitely do not agree with censorship but in an attempt to think from the perspective of someone in favor of it, I can come up with a couple possible reasons: 1. They fear (as you said) to see anything that challenges their views or beliefs. 2. They are perfectly happy with their lives as they are and don’t wish to know anything further beyond what their government provides. I kind of understand both of the possible reasons. As the saying goes, Ignorance is bliss.

  3. I think that censorship is something that is hard for us, as Americans, to grasp. We so strongly believe in freedom that we try to hate on anyone who believes anything differently.

  4. Wow! I love the infographic charts that you included! When I went to DC and visited the Newseum I found this topic shocking as well. I agree with Wade’s comments about why they would be in favor of it. As a PR major, I know all too well that the media is hard to control and you never know what is going to come out of it. You can see from recent twitter chats with professional sports players that when you open something up to the public, you never know what the response is going to be like. I am not for censorship at all, as I am currently in the journalism school and know how detrimental that can be, but I do understand where they are coming from and hope that in the coming years they will start to ease up on their censorship laws.

  5. I recently wrote a post on free press in the Middle East. I’m also a journalism major so this post is very interesting to me. I find it fascinating to study different trends in media and how the people react. Perhaps the most interesting part of censorship in the Middle East is the fact that the people are in favor of this, as you stated. I do agree that it is simply because of fear. In general, people have a fear for the unknown. When you don’t know what could possibly be out there and you’re constantly told that it will harm civilization, how could you be in favor of ridding the censorship laws?

    Although the people are in favor of these censorship laws, I do not think that it is the right thing for the government to do. Maybe this is the journalist in me, but I feel that all people have a right to know exactly what is going on. How can you truly have an opinion on a matter when you’re only shown one side or specific facts? As you stated, there is no easy answer. The Middle East can’t simply begin freely displaying information and expecting the public to respond favorably. However, I think with time, the Middle East should decrease censorship. The people have a right to be fully informed and educated. It’s our right to choose what we see and do not see.

  6. I was surprised to see that turkey monitors material. I’ve always thought about them as a more westernized country. Its terrible a country would go to the length of killing and torturing a citizen because of a post they made on the internet. I wonder if the statistics on the citizens in favor of citizenship is altered by fear of their governments? I do understand the offensiveness of some programs or movies, but is it really correct to keep your citizens from it? Its as thought the government is treating their citizens as if they were children. I liked this article a bunch and found it really interesting!

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