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March 07, 2005

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Ryan

When you say it will be difficult for the US to "effectively object" to these crackdowns, I assume the "effectively" refers to more than "un-hypocritically." I'm curious what an "effective" objection would be?

the aardvark

Well, hypocrisy does matter - if Arab governments do not believe that the US wants Arab media freedom, they are unlikely to pay much attention if American officials do say anything critical.

Actual policy preferences matter too - assumed in the above is that the US would actually make such objections. There has been virtually no evidence to suggest that this is in fact the case. This has been a major blind spot all along in the "democracy promotion" enterprise.

But those two points aside, what would make an effective policy would be a public, clear commitment to media freedoms which is followed through with and backed by concrete actions: we expect our friends, like our enemies, to respect media freedoms, and we will complain and punish (diplomatically, economically) those who do not. This would enter into the calculations of Arab leaders before they crack down in the first place - is it worth angering the US to keep this protest off of al Jazeera? Currently that's not the case.

Ryan

You make some good points, but I wonder if the US can forgo an explicitly pro-media-freedom stance for a less-hypocritical pro-political-opposition-freedom stance? Admittedly, this is a hard argument to make, since the Jordanian government could say the opposition does enjoy freedoms, as demonstrations against the ruling powers is allowed in the first place. But lumping this issue with political freedom rather than media freedom could conceivably do some good, no?

Also, a follow-up question for the aardvark: as the situation in Iraq gets better, which, hopefully it will, do you see the US having less need to deny/censor Al Jazeera? Does media freedom have any hope in the near (and optimistic) future?

Thanks!

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