The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint – Freedom-of-speech restrictions still exist around world

By Linah Mohammad/se news editor

Americans can criticize Obama, Bush and their great-grandfathers, and they don’t think much of it. However, in other parts of the world, people cannot do that, yet.

In the Middle East, comments deemed critical of political leaders can entangle not only journalists but also ordinary citizens as well in the turmoil of legal trouble.

In Jordan, the law criminalizes criticism of the king, and the entire royal family for that matter. Critical speech of the king can cost up to three years in prison, and according to Reporters Without Borders, the government has blocked more than 260 news websites.

The country has sentenced a journalist in absentia to 15 years with hard labor for “inciting hatred and attacking Jordan’s image and the image of its one nation.”

Saudi Arabia, which touts itself as the kingdom of humanity, has laws enacted that bans critical speech of the ruling Saud family, the government and the society. The kingdom has an ongoing list of locked-up bloggers and activists whose mere fault was speaking up. Their charges then are along the lines of “inciting sedition, disloyalty toward the king, publishing articles and communicating with foreign journalists with the aim of harming the state’s image.”

Israel, the free speech “champion” in the region, is not any better. Israel crushed anti-war protests during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Protesters were harassed, threatened and attacked. Some even lost their jobs. So it should not come as a surprise that during that conflict, the Israeli army killed seven journalists. The Israeli Defense Forces has acknowledged it targeted journalists and media buildings in the past, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Egypt, the Mother of the World, is one of the top 10 deadliest countries to be a journalist. Five journalists were killed and at least 80 were arbitrarily detained in 2013 alone.

Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey … etc. — the examples are endless.

Criticism in published material is not the only type of punishable speech. Private conversations regarding the regimes are also punishable. Some countries have security agents who listen to people’s conversations in the streets.

People are always hesitant when talking about these kinds of issues because “the walls have ears,” as they would tell you. Or they do not want a one-way ticket “over the sun,” the destination that people never come back from.

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