Tuesday 17 November 2009

Arabs and Free Speech: The Doha Debates

The Christian Science Monitor (13 September, 2009) carries an interesting article about The Doha Debates, a programme commisioned by the BBC World Service:

"Through the BBC, The Doha Debates can be seen in some 300 million homes in 200 countries. But its greatest legacy may be in the Middle East, where authoritarian regimes stifle free speech, newspapers are heavily censored, children are raised to obey without question, and school systems reject critical thinking in favor of rote learning.

Amid this smothering environment, The Doha Debates is perhaps the freest public forum for probing tough issues that deeply resonate in the Arab world.

"It offers an opportunity for free speech and expression of an opinion, which is very much in demand and very highly appreciated," said Asaad al-Asaad, an English instructor at Riyadh's Yamamah University, who accompanied his Saudi students to Doha for a taping.

One "legacy" of the show, Ms. Willis said, is "an incredible surge in debating activities in Qatar and the region." This is evident in new debate clubs at high schools and universities across the Middle East, including in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and at a Palestinian university in the Israeli-occupied West Bank."

You can read the whole article here.

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