Has much changed in the Gulf? Looking back over the last 12 months, the headlines have rightly been dominated by news of events in Egypt and Syria. On the sidelines, Iran, Israel and Palestine have filled the column inches. In comparison, the Gulf seems to have changed little.
Most of us know to think before we speak. We understand that certain issues may be difficult to discuss during certain occasions. And then there’s self-censorship, the concept of altering the spoken and written word, picture, or other published material out of concern about the consequences.
Having talked to people I admire from the art world, publishing and the online communities there is a concern and fear that the boundaries of expression are shifting. The region’s powers that be are not just watching and listening, but they are also taking action. The number of persons questioned and detained for stating their views or thoughts publicly seems to have increased, and the media coverage surrounding these events has certainly gone up several notches.
So where does that leave those writers, publishers, artists and the like who live in the Gulf? We’ve always had soft censorship in the region’s media, the concept of avoiding sensitive topics to not upset advertisers, the authorities/media owners.
However, today’s conservative wave (it may be even called a tsunami if the levels of monitoring and action pick up pace) following the Arab Spring has come up against an awakening of expression brought about by social media tools. Who will win out?
The question in my mind today is where are the red lines? What should be spoken about and when should one stay silent? And can one censor the web today without unplugging oneself from the internet?