In countries and times when communication is impeded, all other freedoms soon wither away. The discussion dies from starvation, ignorance of others’ opinions becomes rampant, imposed opinions triumph.
Intolerance is inclined towards censorship, and censorship promotes ignorance of the arguments of others and therefore intolerance itself. A rigid vicious circle, which is difficult to break.
-Primo Levi (Turin, 31 July 1919 – ibidem, 11 April 1987) survived at Auschwitz. ‘The Drowned and the Saved’ (Summit Books, New York, 1988).
I conceive no worse fate than to live in darkness; Of not being able to access the knowledge of what is happening around us – or to the thinking of those who analyze it. I was only eight when Franco died, but four decades later, the mere mention of the term “censorship” continues to freeze my blood.
Time passes and I refuse to become a cold-blooded creature. In December of 2013, advising a film distributor in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), I again felt the scrape of censorship with The Wolf on Wall Street. As with all foreign films, the National Media Council of the Government of the United Arab Emirates asked us for a copy subtitled in Arabic and censored of all the “unseemly” before approving its broadcast.
The censorship, digitally in a first phase, scans every frame looking for the skin (nudes) and suggesting its elimination. Blood and violence do not seem to alter these censors. After the images, it is the turn of words. “Fuck” appears 544 times in the 180 minutes of the tape. Once the naked body and the foul language have been eliminated, a detailed reading of the texts is carried out. Political positions are sought in favor of democracy, against religion or in defense of homosexuality, issues that obsess the censors of the United Arab Emirates.
At the end of the process, The Wolf of Wall Street waned a third, eliminating nearly 45 minutes of tape to heels. All this to “protect” from harmful influences to a citizens, victims of the intense intellectual malnutrition to which they submit their governments.
I am passionate about the Arab culture and its people and I am saddened to see Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt punish their citizens, right before our noses, eliminating the freedom of the press without shame. I am angry that the international community does nothing to prevent it. Even in Spain – where we still remember what that is – we raise our voices.
Undoubtedly animated by Trump’s visit, this coalition of countries has turned their crusade against freedom – poorly disguised as an anti-terrorist struggle – into the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. A crisis that has made the State of Qatar, possibly the country that has invested most in education, sport, art and culture in the Arab world, head of Turkish, and never better said.
Together with the Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera and twenty more media, Huffpost Arabi has also been censored for weeks. As a reader, blogger, but above all, as CEO of the Huffpost Arabi, censorship of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt has re-frozen my blood. And it does so because those countries represent more than half of the Arab-speaking audience and I am very aware that those who read us there need to know what is happening and what is thought of the rest of the world every day, just like us and us. However, their governments continue to force them to maintain a regime of disinformation and medieval darkness. Fortunately there is the VPN, Hello!.
In fact, the governments of those countries ask for something very clear, although we do not want to know. They demand to close Al Jazeera, HuffPost Arabi and twenty other media that, with their news and reports, contribute to the modernization of the region. It is a question of closing those channels of content that carry the strange ideas of diversity of thought, that promote Human Rights, that defend democracy and that, if they continue to expand their influence, they will help to achieve a more free and equal Arab world.
Thus, forty-two years after Franco stopped tormenting us, censorship continues to hurt my ears. His scabs make my blood freeze, but the worst is not that; The real problem is that they prevent new generations, and those who want to think freely in Arabic, from accessing their own enlightenment.
Will you stay seated? I will not.
Abogado en España y Barrister en el Reino Unido