Wrote this piece for the Global Freedom of Expression project conference at Columbia University earlier this year. Here’s the beginning:
In 2014, Arab judges issued no exceptional rulings that helped embolden freedom of expression. Courts in the Gulf countries and nearby Arab states (Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq) largely upheld the authoritarian status quo. While many government prosecutors charged media outlets, journalists and social media speakers with violations, no judges ruled in favor of free speech.
Perhaps the Arab region’s biggest shift regarding free speech in 2014 involves legislation rather than any judiciary actions. Several countries embraced the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and social media speakers.
Two Arab governments revised their counterterrorism laws with broad, vague definitions of speech that can now be considered “terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, the government updated the law to label as terrorism any act that seeks to “insult the reputation of the state.” Reporting on the flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi could be labeled “terrorism” under the new law’s broad definition.
Here’s the video of my talk:
I’ve been working on not saying “um” too much. Still need to work on it.