The United Arab Emirates follows Saudi Arabia and Egypt in blocking access to a Qatari website called The New Arab. According a to a spokesman for Al-Araby al-Jadeed, the media outlet that runs the website, The New Arab is intended as a forum for open discussion and exchange of ideas in the Middle East. The spokesman expressed surprise and concern at the censorship of the website, stating that it undermines Al-Araby al-Jadeed’s principles of supporting democracy and press freedom. The exact reasons for blocking the site are unknown, although Egyptian authorities have accused both The New Arab and Al-Jazeera of being biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Notably, reports indicate that The New Arab is particularly popular in all the countries in which it is now blocked.
The censorship of The New Arab comes amidst escalating tension in the region, as GCC member states like the UAE and Saudi Arabia increasingly target journalists and suppress free expression. In 2013, the UAE sentenced 69 individuals to lengthy prison terms on charges related to non-violent political activities. Just last month, meanwhile, a Saudi court sentenced Zuhair Kutbi, a writer and outspoken proponent of peaceful reform, to 15 years in prison and an additional 15-year ban on writing and appearing in the media.
Margaret Bailey is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB.
Photo courtesy of The Guardian