The issues of freedom of speech as well as the freedom of expression in journalism are actively discussed in the context of media regulations that are used in different countries to control the media sphere.
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In his article “Arab Media Regulations: Identifying Restraints on Freedom of the Press in the Laws of Six Arabian Peninsula Countries” that was published in 2014, Matt Duffy analyzed specific media regulations that are followed in six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in contrast to traditional regulations typical for the Western countries or international approaches (Duffy, 2014, p. 2).
Thus, Duffy states that media regulations characteristic for such GCC countries as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are stricter than the regulations adopted in the Western countries because the discussed legislation is also developed to control the relationship between media and the public order as well as prevent false news and issues of defamation.
Summary of the Main Points
The article presents the analysis of the media regulations in the GCC countries in comparison with the international regulations and policies adopted in the Western world.
The events of the ‘Arab Spring’ are discussed by Duffy as the trigger to pay attention to the role of media in influencing the public views and movements in the Arab world (Duffy, 2014, p. 1). The further discussion of the media regulations is provided based on the analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Duffy chose to analyze the legislation related to the media spheres in the GCC countries and such secondary sources as newspaper articles and blogs in order to identify how media regulations can affect the character of the information presentation in press and online.
The analysis was supported with the theoretical framework based on the statements from the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) regarding the correlation between the right to free expression and legal obligations.
As a result, the analyzed media regulations were divided into those ones correlated with the international norms according to the ICCPR and the legislation that was found outside the framework (Duffy, 2014, p. 10).
The analysis and comparison of the regulations was also supported with the provided recommendations to balance the freedom of expression against the existing legislation in the GCC countries.
Significance of the Author’s Ideas and Arguments
In his research, Duffy focuses on a range of points that are important to be discussed in the context of the media regulations and their role to support the freedom of expression in the GCC countries.
Duffy’s research can be considered as rather unique in its area because there is a significant research gap in the field due to the lack of unbiased studies conducted by non-Arab scholars (Duffy, 2014, p. 7). From this point, the author’s work is important to add to the limited knowledge in the sphere of medial regulations and the GCC countries.
The researcher found that the differences of the regulations in the GCC countries in comparison with the international approaches are the result of the specific cultural background. Therefore, defamation can become a criminal case, the issue of truth is controversial, and the public figure is more protected in the Arab societies.
Furthermore, the proposed media regulations are oriented not only to limit the journalists’ freedom of speech but also to protect the public order, reputation of public figures and rulers, and national security (Duffy, 2014, p. 16).
As a result, Duffy concluded that journalists are significantly limited in their rights to free expression because of many unclear or broad laws with controversial formulations.
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Significance of Duffy’s ideas is in the fact that the researcher discussed the problem of media regulations in the large social context while identifying the problematic issues, determining the causes for the problem, and recommending the ways to overcome the issues of strict media regulations.
The author chose to discuss the problem in the international context, explaining the freedom of expression as the basic human right.
Significance of the Findings in Relation to the International Media
From this perspective, it is important to discuss significance of Duffy’s findings in relation to the context of international media. The author pays much attention to comparing the media regulations in the GCC countries with the approaches in the Western countries directly.
As a result, it is possible to focus on the features of both perspectives. Thus, the author noted that state-controlled media systems can develop in opposition to the norms typical for the democratic societies.
Therefore, protection for public figures and officials is accentuated in the GCC countries, criminal cases on freedom of speech develop, and self-censorship is one of the main characteristic features of journalism in the GCC countries.
Duffy paid attention to the fact that such media regulations are unfavorable for journalists seeking truth, it is impossible to speak about the press freedom, licensing can limit journalists, and they can be often abused if their actions are discussed as violating the public order or security.
In this context, using the examples of the international approaches Duffy claims that media regulations should be clear and free expression should be protected along with proposing effective laws to protect the public order (Duffy, 2014, p. 18). Although the media regulations seem to follow international standards in some aspects, there are many areas for improvements in legislation.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Research
Strengths of Duffy’s research are in the fact that the author provides the detailed discussion of primary and secondary sources while proposing the effective classification to categorize regulations that can affect freedom of expression significantly in the GCC countries.
The author identified the necessity to modify the current legal approaches and proposed gradual changes for the sphere of media regulations that need to become the part of civil law (Duffy, 2014, p. 29). However, there are also weaknesses in the discussion.
In spite of focusing the attention on the role of social media to oppose the model of the state-controlled media, the author does not provide the broad discussion of the topic to support the idea of widespread censorship in the GCC countries.
In addition, more attention should be paid to the discussion of the problems of protecting public health and morals with references to the media regulations in the GCC countries because of the aspects of the culture and religion (Duffy, 2014, p. 18).
Thus, not all restrictions can be avoided because they are supported with the culture, and they are not discussed in the society as violations of rights.
Possible Agreements and Disagreements
It is possible to agree with Duffy’s idea that strict media regulations prevent journalists from being objective and make them focus on self-censorship. The author is also good in providing the large and detailed discussion of the problems associated with different laws with the focus on specific articles.
Furthermore, the author focuses on the limitedness of journalists’ rights when they need to mandate truth.
However, providing recommendations for the legislation improvements, the author does not refer to the fact that the freedom of speech is often an issue in the GCC countries because it can be limited even in constitutions, as it was stated by the author in other sections of the article.
Associated Assumptions and Biases
Focusing on the author’s discussion of limitations, it is possible to assume that the analysis of the secondary sources cannot be discussed as fully accurate because of the issues associated with censorship followed by journalists.
Moreover, the discussion of the GCC countries’ media regulations in the context of ICCPR laws can also be viewed as biased because the proposed framework is rather broad and not completely related to the context of the Arab world.
As a result, Duffy accentuated the “broad” and “unclear” character of the majority of proposed regulations in the region (Duffy, 2014, p. 18). In fact, while focusing on the ICCPR statement, the media regulations in the GCC countries can be discussed as aligned with international principles only in several cases.
Thus, Duffy’s approach seems to be limited or based in its nature.
The questions related to the research are the following ones: (1) Is the impact of culture and religion significant to influence the formulation of media regulations in the region?
(2) What benefits does the used theoretical framework provide for the research? (3) How do the findings support the idea about the restriction of freedom of expression in the GCC countries? (4) What effects can the current media regulations have on the further development of journalism in the region?
Referring to Duffy’s research, it is possible to state that the GCC countries do not provide the balanced approach to formulating regulations to guarantee the freedom of expression. However, these regulations are directed to protecting the public other basic rights important in the Arab societies.
Therefore, these regulations should be discussed in the context of culture and religion instead of being compared with the international approaches.
Duffy, M. J. (2014). Arab media regulations: Identifying restraints on freedom of the press in the laws of six Arabian Peninsula countries. Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, 6(1), 1-30.