When freedoms of the press are curtailed
Sunday,26 August 2012
By : Shamlan Yousef Al-Isa
cannot really comprehend the actual reasons why we always tend to restrict the concepts that determine our freedoms of expression and opinion. Why is it always so that the democratic experience witnesses repeated setbacks despite the passage of nearly half a century of democratic freedoms? There are so many answers to those questions, but what is certain is that although we have been granted our freedoms the minute we embraced democracy, we have yet to accept them deep within our hearts and minds. On the other hand, the experiences of people in countries in the West where the concepts of freedoms are concerned; are deeply entrenched in their minds and associated with the fact that their freedoms have always been guaranteed by their governments.
There is also this fact which we must bear in mind and that is: Freedoms in countries in the West have always been entrenched deep within the womb of the conflicts arising deep in the chasm between the church and the state. In fact the first rift that was witnessed between the church and the British monarch King Henry VIII led to the separation of the church and the state. And when the issue leapt beyond control, conflicts started arising between the Roman Catholics and the newly founded Protestant doctrine. These conflicts were all about the freedoms resulting in more and more freedoms while conflicts arising in other underdeveloped countries whether among governments or the opposition have, more often than not, led to attempts by all sides; to restrict those freedoms.
In our own state of affairs, members of the National Assembly, who had earlier demanded a free and open audio and visual media through the opening up of satellite channels and publication of additional newspapers in attempts to prevent monopoly and grant even more freedoms, are nowadays demanding the closure of those very media means that they once demanded. The main reason for their opposition lies in the fact that that those very members of parliament who had once encouraged the press to censure the government's every move are now demanding the media; including the press, television and radio to serve their best interests instead. And the minute they realized that their ambitions would never see the light of day, they started to demand the restrictions in freedoms granted to the press.
It is also highly ironical that it is the Ministry of Information that has taken the initiative to restrict the freedoms of the press, since it always defends the government points of view. This surely demonstrates a lack of government's vision and fear as well as the reluctance and ignorance of some ministers over the importance of freedoms granted to the media. On the other hand, the problem with granting freedoms in our country lies in the fact that it is the government itself that has actually encouraged restricting freedoms and this very notion contradicts with what the media used to always emphasize on: that the rulers in Kuwait were more moderate, liberal, tolerant and respect each others' views and opinions away from the radical Islamic alternatives that are represented by the political Islamic school of thought which considers freedoms as being imposed upon them by countries in the West.
This constant wrangling between members of the government and parliament has actually left us dangling between a government that does not have a clear vision and a parliament that seeks to restrict freedoms. Not to mention a non-liberal society that is hesitant to accept reforms of any magnitude and this in turn will surely not help in promulgating a fertile ground to advocate the concepts and values of freedoms and democracy. The question that I'd like to direct to the information minister and his representatives at the ministry, which proposed restricting freedoms, is: "What is the nature of intellectual life after restricting freedoms?" Restricting freedoms in a world, whose peoples enjoy all the freedoms that exist in their respective societies that are buzzing alive with satellite channels and the Internet coupled with the evolution of digital communications, is not only foolhardy; it is simply not possible.
No one can deny the fact that the status quo of some satellite channels in the country and countries in the Arab region is marked with chaos with respect to the concept of freedom of expression, but then again they manage to let discretion prevail under the circumstances. On the other hand, in some countries in the Arab world, some satellite channels focus on trivial issues while others promote the concepts of tribalism and the social importance of their clans at the expense of other components in society. Some satellite channels have also become the representatives of political Islam and promote some extremist religious concepts and stringent schools of thought.
All these negative attributes and realities certainly do exist in our society and while most of us disregard its existence making it look like it does not concern them, it will be in the best interests of one and all to work together in an amicable manner and find effective solutions in not addressing them but to actually take the initiative of raising the awareness of people and developing a neutral media means. The media means, on the other hand, should exert positive efforts in preserving and promulgating the concepts of cultural, moral and social values that are miles away from the scourge of negative extremism, ignorance and exploitation of sectarian, tribal, and religious affiliations to achieve narrow partisan and tribal interests.
I personally think that the best solutions to all our problems can only be achieved by adopting, accepting and welcoming positive yet moderate changes in our lifestyles through promulgating the concepts of free dialogue and exert exemplary attempts to correct all shortcomings and negative attributes that we cling on to so desperately. It is high time we also set all our differences aside and embark on a journey that only leads us to prosperity through achieving overwhelming success in all our endeavors.
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