Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Free Press Toll"--You Must Pay to Play

For those of you who are not subscribed to’s press releases (and I suggest you do), I delightfully inform you that the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has garnered their second consecutive "Freest Arab Press" award.

This northwestern Islamic Republic, currently governed by the victor of a military coup in 2009, topped all Arab countries in 'press freedom', according to the media group- Reporters Without Border (RSF). The RSF’s 2012 Press Freedom Index placed Mauritania 67th- “thanks to the adoption of a law on the electronic media, opening up the broadcasting sector and other developments”. 

News director, Sheikh Naji Ould Sidi Salem acknowledged the feat by saying that more could be done to push the country further into press freedom.
"My confession of the progress made doesn't make me refrain from asking for more, nor from expressing the ambition to see the areas of freedom expand and to overcome existing shortcomings."

Not convincing. 

According to Freedom House, Mauritania’s press is "partly free" due to reports that privately-owned newspapers face closure for publishing material deemed offensive to Islam or threatening to the state, moreover, the country as a whole is deemed "not free". 

According to BBC News, "Mauritania's main national TV and radio networks are state-owned. In 2010, MPs passed a law to liberalise broadcasting, paving the way for the launch of privately-owned stations." While possessing:
 - 8 'press' sources (3 state run)
 - 3 'television' outlets (1 state run)
 - 2 'radio' stations (1 state run)
 - 4 'news agencies/ internet' (1 state run)

Internet access is unrestricted, HOWEVER, there are only 100,000 known internet users (3% of the country's population).

I fail to see the doves flying out of the newspapers. I cannot hear the torrented music belting out from the Islamic meat markets. I have yet to receive the local Imam's instagrams.

--BBC says that Mauritania is "One of the world's poorest countries"

After discussing the Arab Spring, where the public's discontented used media to create a snowball of ever-growing protests, the issue of a ‘free press’ is very relevant to our discussions and area of study.
So why should us students care about said issues? Well, in the modern era of media-dominant news wires, Mauritania is lacking. We use the internet everyday-- in our classes or on the ski slopes--while Mauritania seems to be struggling to tell the world that they've got offshore oil reserves and natural gas for leagues beyond... Why don't we know more or hear more about this soft-spoken resource haven?

You ask where does Mauritania fall on the Westfall's 2012 Index of Freedom N' Such ?
-right between Iran and Venezuela.... But think of Venezuela without the self-righteous dictator, radical leftist policies, and instead of drug wars- you have Jihadi quarrels.

After muddling through these murky statistics and negatively illuminated news stories with my fine tooth comb, I am left to wonder how freedom of the press can be realized if all pupils are subject to respecting the Sharia (the law and moral code of Islam) of a religiously-backed government?

Is Mauritania on the path to righteousness? To triumph and glory above all other Arab states? Or are they just one of the countries who mask press freedom with the plurality of many news sources?

Mauritania's got nothin on our American Free Press.
Comments are encouraged.

Courtesy of Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott, MRT.
--Also used: BBC News, Freedom House

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