My article recently published in the Berkley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic law can found here. Such scholarship is rare in the Middle East. On page 2, I list three reasons for the lack of media law research:
Three factors underlie a collective avoidance of research dedicated to the Arab world’s media laws in the academic community. First, a lack of academic freedom in the region hinders rigorous research of media policy. A culture of self-censorship pervades Arab universities because academics that tread too close to “sensitive” subjects (such as the mechanisms used to censor the press) can lose their position or be expelled from host countries. Second, language is a barrier. With many Arabic-speaking researchers avoiding rigorous study of media regulation, English-language academics are left to fill the void. In many Arab countries, media laws are written in Arabic without English translations. Therefore, English-speaking academics—who may also have more knowledge about international approaches to such laws—are unable to examine source material. Finally, a general lack of transparency (in all areas including media laws) makes it difficult to obtain source materials and other specific information, whether in Arabic or English. These factors collectively result in the region seeing little media law scholarship beyond cursory overviews in international media law texts and yearly “not free” rankings from press watchdog organizations.
Hope that other academics follow my lead and contribute more to this field but expect few will be stationed in the region. I purposefully chose an open-access journal, so that the paper can be easily discovered.
This research adds an important component for Arab scholars — how do other countries that have better press freedom rankings handle these issues? Instead of just decrying a government for arresting a journalist, I examine how other countries have balanced the need to keep public order while protecting freedom of expression. The analysis also explores defamation, insult to rulers, licensing of journalists and false news laws.