In response to the freedom index issued by Reporters without Borders, which analysed the levels of press freedom across the world, there has been Arab rejection of the index once again based on the consideration that it places many Arab countries in the lower rankings. Some feel that it is not objective and does not take into consideration the media developments taking place in Arab countries in terms of freedom and transparency.
There are some who believe that the report does not take cultural differences into account and further consolidates the hegemony of Western culture as the one culture that aims to dominate the world. Despite the repeated voice of rejection over the years, the Reporters without Borders’ freedom index continued to save the bottom section of the list for most of the Arab countries.
Those observing the status of the press in some Arab countries, and the Gulf states especially, would certainly see that the level of freedom has risen beyond its former limits and that freedom of the press in these countries has reached levels it has never reached before. Consequently, those who objected to the index were somewhat right to do so, as the index failed to take into account the group of variables that have emerged on the ground.
What gained my attention is despite the fact that Kuwait ranked 60th on the list, making it the top Arab country for press freedom according to the index, we find that the Editor-in-Chief of Al Seyassah newspaper in Kuwait, Ahmed al Jarallah, does not see what many others do in this freedom. Rather, he considers it a cause of a lot of problems that harm the national security of Kuwait. This opinion, which comes from within the press institution, reflects the points of contention over the concept of freedom to which journalism aims.
As we can see, the Reporters without Borders freedom index did not satisfy any of the Arabs, neither the Arabs who ranked high on the list, nor those who featured at the bottom of the list, nor did it convince them of its standards. It seems that freedom of the press, a concept that is being thrown around and adopted as a slogan by everyone, and one that is being debated widely as an issue, is in the same situation as Laila:
“Everyone claims [to have a] connection with Laila
and Laila acknowledges her love to none of them.”
Away from the Reporters without Borders index and its reports, it is safe to say that achieving press freedom in the Arab world in the desired manner will not happen overnight. To reach this stage it must be preceded by numerous steps throughout the different stages of life whether in the home, at school or in society. In the end, freedom of the press simply means freedom of man.