Television and Cinematic Censorship in Middle East

Abstract

Censorship on television, as well as cinemas, has been implemented by a majority of the Middle East countries. The move has been made to protect the citizens of these countries from harmful media content, such as sexual scenes. Censorship is also done to protect the Islam religion primarily from foreign insults. However, there are adverse impacts of censorship, which drag the economy, as well as the social lives of the citizens in the censored countries.

Introduction

Television and cinema have been essential components in the life of mankind. Television connects the public to the general society by allowing people to know what is happening in their country and other countries, as well. There are many useful programs that television gives to the society, including educational shows, drama, and entertainment, as well as religious programs. All these programs are necessary for the society, as they are usually an accurate reflection the society. However, some programs are viewed by many as being morally degrading because they do not offer any education, humor, or religious value to the viewers. Instead, they depict what the society views as morally wrong. The BBC (2013) claims that some programs from the West do not glorify the values of other viewers, such as viewers from the Middle East, who are believed to have strong traditional values. The effect is that most programs from the West are censored to avoid their infiltration into the society.

Cinemas, on the other hand, tend to pass knowledge from one generation to the other. Traditions and people’s cultures are passed well to the younger generations through the cinemas. There are films that are created to provide humor to the viewers, while others are purposely made to glorify romance. This category of films is censored more than other categories, as the films portray explicit content that is contrary to the Islamist teachings. Films that are not acted within the nation that they will be aired are met with a lot of opposition in the Middle East countries.

Literature Review

Censorship on television and cinemas has been on the rise in the Middle East. A majority of the nations that impose this kind of restriction are of Islamic origin. In fact, Davidson (2006, p. 3) argues that teachings of Islamic origin have been used extensively to impose censorship on different television programs, as well as opinions. Davidson further claims that cinemas and television that illustrate Prophet Muhammad are frequently censored, as they are seen to give contradictory messages to what the Islamic religion teaches (2006, p. 4). In some countries, there is police whose duty is to enforce Sharia law solely. The enforcing police sometimes interpret this law as encompassing censorship on television and films. This explains why the censorship on television and cinemas in the Middle East is more effective than in other countries.

Some of the reasons that are given by nations that censor television and films include the fact that some programs in the television support the acts of terrorism. According to Frater (2008 p. 8), many of the Middle East governments are afraid of the way the media reports terrorism activities. It has been argued that reporting of terrorism activities is sometimes done in ways that expose the government’s efforts to combat and neutralize terrorists. The Indian government, for example, has banned television news in the past in the event that the news posed a threat to the government’s effort to fight terrorism (Frater 2008 p. 8). Another television company in Bangkok was attacked after airing news on how terrorists had held hostage the Suvarnabhumi airport.

Liang (2005 p. 369) explains that clerics are to blame for media censorship in some countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, clerics spearheaded the ban on cinemas in the 1970s (Frater 2008 p. 8). Cinemas were then seen as inculcating the teachings of the West that did not put into consideration the traditions, values, and the Islamic faith of the Saudis. These clerics have been instrumental in banning any material on television or cinemas that can degrade Prophet Muhammad. This ban, as shown by Frater, has been implemented by heads of states that are under the umbrella of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In fact the leaders have resolved to make it mandatory for all nations under their authority to shun from any form of a television program or cinema that will show disrespect for Prophet Muhammad (Liang 2005 p. 380).

Apart from clerics, Jewish leaders have been reported as being instrumental in censorship of television and cinemas due to what they term as a violation of their faith. According to the Insight (2009), the Chinese government imposed censorship on a particular television media house because it had contents that depicted insult on the Jewish religion. It was viewed that the Jewish leaders were very influential in the revision of the program because it coincided with the Jewish celebrations that were to take place in China.

According to the Chinese Law and Government (2004, p. 34), various governments impose censorship on television programs and cinemas if the media content poses harm to the sovereignty and unity of the state. Other reasons that this article gives for censorship on television, as well as cinemas are that the contents of that media output could cause insult to the public, provide the state secrets to the outside world, detrimental to the security of the state, promotes pornography, has too much violence, or media content that supports any form of discrimination.

This paper will explore how censorship on television and cinemas has affected the media in the Middle East. A careful comparison will be made between countries with the least censorship versus those that have strict censorship. The paper will also give the pros and cons of media censorship, with more emphasis on the disadvantages of this type of restriction. The social and economic development of these nations will be compared to the nations that do not have censorship of media, such as the countries in the West.

The examples that will be used in this paper are all from the Middle East. At least seven countries in this region that have imposed censorship on the media will be selected and discussed in equal length. The countries include Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Israel. The reasons why these Middle East countries impose censorship will be given as well. The paper is divided into sections, with headings and subheadings that are easy to follow and interpret.

Censorship in Turkey

Turkey is one of the countries that have strict measures on media censorship. The main reason that the Turkey government holds on to when imposing media censorship is that most cinemas and several television programs have morally degrading programs. Davidson (2006) admits that some of the foreign programs, especially those from the Western countries, portray sexual content in a way that is not accepted by the Middle East society. Another reason the Turkish government imposes media censorship is the need to unite all the citizens of the country. One way that the Turkish authority does this is by restricting any media content that can cause divisions along racial and religious lines (Frater 2008). Also, like many Middle East countries, censorship has been imposed to ensure political stability.

To further stress the difficulty in which the media personnel in Turkey operate, Turkey was in 2012 reported to have jailed more journalists in custody than any other nation in the world in that year. The government of Turkey is so cautious of media content that in 2014 it had ordered the removal of media content from the Internet more than any other country in the world. This shows how complicated the Turkish journalists are in presenting news to the public. In fact, journalists in Turkey are said to live in fear, as their government does not guarantee their security and protection (Frater 2008). The Turkish government is meant to encourage television program providers to practice self-censorship to avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the government. The television content that is censored in Turkey includes scenes of nudity, kissing on television, homosexuality, as well as extreme violence. Bad language that may sound abusive to the public is also censored and muted (Davidson 2006).

One of the most effective ways that the Turkish government uses to censor television and media, in general, is the use of laws. In this move, the Turkish government can prosecute as many journalists as it wishes by referring to the stipulated law (Frater 2008). Some of the famous laws that the Turkish government uses to censor the media include Articles 301 and 312. Article 301 had in the past been misinterpreted to punish journalists who were thought to attack the Turkish government, including its institutions. For example, Pamuk Orhan was tried using Article 301 for what was said to be a betrayal of the country (Frater 2008). Article 312 stipulates the jail term for whoever produces media content that may cause racial or religious division in Turkey. This penal code has seen many senior officials removed from their job positions. Some of those officials include the former Mayors of Istanbul -Tayyip Erdogan, as well as Birdal Akin.

Censorship in Turkey has been for the benefit of the public. Through censorship, sexual and nudity contents are not aired both on television and the cinemas. Children are not subjected to scenes of extreme violence, while vulgar and abusive language is not aired to the viewers. On the other hand, censorship of television and cinemas in Turkey undermines the professionalism of the journalists in the country. Journalists are not given the chance to report what is happening when it comes to demonstrations and the way the police handle demonstrations. Extreme censorship on media has resulted in many journalists being prosecuted, which has caused fear and panic among the upcoming journalists.

Censorship in Iran

Censorship in Iran started way back in 1979, following the revolution that ousted Muhammad Reza Shah as the Iranian ruler and ushered in Khomeinin as the spiritual leader of Iran. Since then, many of the Western films have been banned in Iran, as these films are perceived to have teachings that are contrary to the Islamic teachings (Recknagel 2014). Censorship was imposed on any film that showed the following; women’s parts, apart from the face and hands, critique of the family status, tight clothes, vulgar language, foreign language, foreign music, evil characters that had beards and those that showed same-sex acts. Any acts of pornography are also prohibited for viewership on Iranian televisions, as well as cinemas (Recknagel 2014).

The main reason for media censorship in Iran is political stability. The government of Iran places strict measures that ensure that stability is implemented through airing what is right and beneficial to the government. Topics that depict the economic problems of Iran, the nuclear program in Iran, the negotiations between Iran and the United Nations, Iran’s social taboos, and the frequent unrest in Iran is highly prohibited for viewing in the country. This ensures that the media content, especially what the televisions air, does not compromise the political position of Iran (Iran Chamber Society 2012).

Television, as well as cinema censorship in Iran, has had both positive and negative impacts on the media industry, as well as the public in general. The Islamic teachings are emphasized and stressed through censorship. An Islamic woman feels dignified when a television program or cinema respects the life and dressing of an Islamic woman, where only the face and the hands should be seen. The society is also shielded from the immoral scenes that depict kissing openly and nude pictures, most of which come from the Western film industries. Acts of pornography are not entertained; therefore, the Iranian people can stick to their Islamic faith without outside interference coming from television, movies, and cinemas (Iran Chamber Society 2012).

Several directors of Iranian films have been quoted as saying that the censorship in Iran has been a blessing in disguise. They claim that the restriction has made them more creative and innovative, such that they can give the same idea in a more honorable way than other directors would be. The strict rules on how a woman should dress at home, public, on television, or cinemas have resulted in many movie directors focusing more on children’s films and those films that do not revolve around homes. Movie directors in Iran have also devised ways of creating metaphors using their language to deliver the message more effectively than they intended to convey to the public (Iran Chamber Society 2012).

On the other hand, censorship in Iran has resulted in several movie directors being jailed for failing to adhere to the laid down television and movie rules. Recknagel (2014) admits that a good number of movie producers have had to seek asylum in the European countries after colliding with the Iranian government over the production of movies. Another adverse effect of censorship in Iran is that it has resulted in low numbers of new artists, as well as movie and film directors. Recknagel (2014) continues to reveal that the filming industry is not as free and independent as the actors and directors would love to see it. As a result, many potential actors are locked out and forced to engage in other forms of employment. Some women in Iran feel that their rights are violated because their feelings are not expressed fully in television programs and movies (Recknagel 2014). The fact that only the face and hands of an Iranian, Islamic woman should be exposed makes it hard for an Iranian woman to express her inner feelings about other forms of clothing. One can argue that although censorship in Iran has been for the benefit of the public, the adverse impacts of this censorship supersede the initial positive goals that censorship was to achieve.

Censorship in Saudi Arabia

Censorship in Saudi Arabia dates back to 1980s, when public cinemas were declared illegal by Islamic clerics who were seen as being conservative (Liang 2005, p. 365). Today, all television programs are subject to censorship by the Saudi government. The control of television and cinema in Saudi Arabia has been so profound that in 2008, the government closed down the state-owned television on suspicion that the public might go on a rampage following salary increases by government officials (Insight 2009). In 1994, the governing authorities in Saudi Arabia restricted all media houses from owning satellites as television receivers. This ban was aimed at regulating the number of people who would access the television and have access to various television programs. One of the latest bans occurred in 2005 when the Saudi government banned a movie by the name “Stan of Arabia” on suspicion that it had contents of homosexuality and excessive alcoholism.

According to Liang (2005, p. 366), the main reasons the Saudi government censors television and cinema include pornographic content, insult to Islam, and any material that might pose a threat to the Saudi government. Any television program or film that has any element of pornographic content or material that poses a threat to the religion of Islam and the government will have to be revised or banned completely before being allowed to be aired in Saudi Arabia.

The censorship of films is worse in Saudi Arabia. In fact, there is no single theatre in the Saudi kingdom where cinemas can be viewed during free time. Even when the only ever produced film was done in Saudi Arabia, its citizens still had to travel to other countries that had less censorship of cinemas to watch the film, as reported by the Insight (2009). Those who engage in filming within the Saudi territory are typically faced with death threats, and a majority of them have to leave their country for safety reasons.

In Saudi Arabia, the body that is tasked with the responsibility of censoring the media is the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry ensures that the content that will be aired in the public is pure and of good quality that will promote the culture of the Saudis. However, the public is not happy with the way their choice on what to view is curtailed. Although the government censors media content to safeguard the good morals of the Saudi people, one may feel that the Saudi government has over censored the media (Frater 2008, p. 19). Some people believe that it is high time that the government allows the construction of theatres so that many Saudis can access film entertainment like the rest of the world.

Television and cinema censorship in the Kingdom of Saudi has had many negative impacts. Liang (2005) reveals that the Saudi women are not allowed to buy any film or movie from a video shop, be it for religious purposes or family viewing. This type of restriction has made many Saudi women feel alienated from the public, thereby lowering their confidence and self-esteem. There have been death threats to those who have directed or acted in films in Saudi Arabia (Liang 2005, p. 367). In fact, these death threats have in some cases resulted in deaths. For example, during the introduction of the first television in Saudi Arabia, many Saudis were angered by the move to the point that the nephew of the then King – King Faisal was killed in a police shootout. This discouraged those would have wanted to practice acting and filming as a full-time job, as they feared that their lives would also be in danger.

Censorship in Syria

Like many Middle East countries, Syria too started its censorship measures as a result of political instability. Frater (2008) confirms that Syria had its first coup d’ etat in 1947 and many more coups followed since then. It is this instability that led to the introduction of media censorship, as the media was seen to be a powerful instrument for facilitating the coups. Pioneer journalists in Syria were killed, while others fled to other Arab countries in fear of being persecuted. Syria can be argued to be among the nations that have strict censorship policies in the Middle East region. A total of 28 journalists were killed in 2012 during combat (BBC 2013). The various television programs are operated by representatives of the ruling Baath Party (Frater 2008). Therefore, it means that all content that goes to the public is passed to the government by censorship. It is sad to note that there is only one main television broadcaster in Syria, which runs radio programs as well. Frater (2008) reveals that the broadcaster is known as the ‘General Organization of Radio and Television Syria (ORTAS).

The film censorship committee checks each script of a film in Syria before being granted permission to be shot (Liang 2005, p. 368). After production, the film has to be presented back to the Board for crosschecking with the original presented manuscript. Foreign films undergo the most intensive form of censorship, as every section has to be thoroughly examined to ensure that it does not contain any content that goes against the directives of the Syrian government. The Syrian government has opted to produce most of its films by itself through the ‘General Organization for the Cinema’ in an effort to make the censorship work easier.

The Syrian Ministry of Culture runs the film industry in the country. Liang (2005) admits that this Ministry controls every film production. It gives credit to the government following various successful projects that the government conducts. The projects fall under the agricultural sector, the transportation sector, the health department, as well as the infrastructural development in Syria.

The censorship of television and films in Syria has had profound impacts. For instance, the Syrian public is shielded from the immoral scenes that most Western films portray. However, the negative effects of media censorship have affected Syria adversely. Talented and experienced journalists have been killed in Syria, which has resulted in the majority of upcoming journalists to seek asylum in different Arab countries, as well as Europe (Frater 2008). The quality of television programs is not guaranteed, as there is no competition in the Syrian television industry. Artistic development in the young generation is not encouraged because there is no private filming industry in Syria, where the young generation can practice and learn acting, as well as filming. One major negative consequence of television and film censorship in Syria is the fact that the Syrian people are not exposed to the outside world through foreign television programs, as well as foreign films and movies.

Censorship in Egypt

Censorship in Egypt is less strict compared to several Arab countries, such as Syria and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Egypt is considered to be the best Arab country where film and other television programs can be scripted and shot (Liang 2005, p. 374). Relatively strict censorship started in 2012 during the Egypt uprising, where a 15-member censorship board was instituted with the title ‘Supreme Council for Audio and Visual Broadcasts’. Contrary to other Arab countries that have imposed restrictions on the media, the Egyptian government decided to incorporate both Muslims and Christians as representatives in the censorship board (Liang 2005).

The reasons why the censorship board was made included the regulation of media content in relation to sexual scenes, scenes explicating drug use, alcohol consumption, gambling, and scenes that could indicate insults to specific professions, religion, gender, or race (Frater 2008). After the enactment of the film censorship law, any director or producer who would produce any television program or film would be prosecuted, according to the stipulated law.

Filming in Egypt has recently become difficult. Liang (2005) admits that some directors have been denied permission to film movies inside mosques, quoting the Sharia law. Others have been denied permission to film in places such campuses on grounds that the students would view the actors as indecently dressed. All these forms of opposition in filming have been attributed to the widely publicized censorship law. There are several permits that the state of Egypt requires to be granted to those willing to be involved in filming (Frater 2008).

Some of the impacts of the media censorship in Egypt include the guarantee of public safety when watching television programs or film in Egypt. Scenes that contain sexual material, drug abuse, alcohol consumption, and insults to various groups of people are regulated and prohibited. On the other hand, many film directors are discouraged from making films, as the protocol for obtaining permission to film a movie has become more tedious and time-consuming (Liang 2005). Again, one has to have quite a lot of money to get the permits necessary for filming a movie in Egypt. There have been cases where foreign journalists have been arrested and jailed for covering sensitive information about the government (BBC 2013). Therefore, one can conclude that the Egyptian censorship on television and films has had both positive and negative impacts, but the adverse effects outweigh the positives.

Censorship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE is a country that has enjoyed the freedom of the press, unlike many Arab countries. Television programs are not as censored as they are in other countries in the Middle East region (Watson 2008). Films and television programs that are produced locally are not prohibited in the UAE. However, all content must meet certain criteria before being aired. The directors must ensure that their materials are free from pornography, insults to the Islam religion, and free from criticism of the ruling government. Davidson (2006 p. 3) reveals that although local film directors are free to produce what they want to communicate to the public, some producers find it hard to finance their filming projects. In that case, they have to seek assistance from the government, which willingly supports local filming. It means that the government censors what is being produced, though moderately. A majority of local film and television program directors are said to practice self-censorship (Watson 2008). This form of censorship is highly recommended, as the directors become more responsible and loyal to their country.

Foreign television programs and films are, however, censored by the government before being allowed to be aired, as revealed by Davidson (2006, p. 5). The ‘Film Censorship Committee’, which comprises of members from various ministries such as the education, social affairs, Interior, Justice, Islamic Affairs, and state security ministries receive foreign media materials from the film classification board for them to decide on which parts of the media content should be removed and which one should be aired to the public. Davidson (2006) reveals that, as a general rule, all foreign films must have an Arabic subtitle before being allowed into the UAE. Examples of foreign films that have been partially or completely banned in the UAE include the ‘English Patient’ and ‘Syriana’, both of which were cut off some scenes that the regulating body found unacceptable. The ‘Brokeback Mountain’ of 2005 was banned altogether because the film had many scenes that portrayed homosexuality.

According to Davidson (2006, p. 8), those found to have violated the set criteria necessary for producing and directing a film or a television program in the UAE are fined, with fines ranging from one thousand to twenty thousand Dirhams. Apart from fines, violators of the UAE Publishing Law might be imprisoned, with the imprisonment period ranging from 1 month to 2 years.

Censorship in the UAE can be considered one of the best in the Arab countries. The local directors are not prohibited from exercising their creativity and innovation. In other words, local talent is encouraged, as long as good morals and values are not violated during filming and acting. The result is that the public in the UAE gets a platform to enjoy the best of local creativity that does not cause harm to them. However, too much censorship of foreign films may discourage foreign film directors from exporting their materials to the UAE in fear that their content might be banned. This might have an adverse effect on the public, as they might not be able to appreciate foreign cultures and creativity (Davidson 2006, p. 15).

Censorship in Israel

Censorship in Israel takes a unique form, different from what many Middle East countries use in their media censorship. Many of the nations that censor the media, including programs aired on the television, use boards to censor the content. This is different from media censorship in Israel, where censorship on the news is done by the military (Rudoren 2014). Although the media has freedom to publish and air opinions on political matters, matters relating to Israel’s nuclear power or its war with Palestine have to be submitted to the ‘Israel Military Censor’ for clearance before being aired. Failure to provide such sensitive materials to the military for clearance might attract heavy fines, imprisonment, or even bans from engaging in any form of media activity. Every journalist who wishes to carry out any journalistic activity in Israel has to be cleared and approved by the Israeli Government Press Office (Rudoren 2014). This office might accept or deny approval of journalists who may be proven to be a threat to the political stability and economic development of the nation. Rudoren adds that television stations are restricted to air any program that will prove unsuitable for children. This encourages self-censorship, where the heads of television stations censor their content before airing it to the Israeli public.

Films in Israel are regulated by the Israel Film Ratings Board. This board is mandated to rate, limit, or ban films that might seem to be offensive to the public or those that might contain content that is harmful to various generations in Israel (Rudoren 2014). It is interesting to note that censorship of films has not been strict in Israel to scare away directors who wish to shoot or promote films in Israel. Rudoren (2014) continues to say that cinemas in Israel are mainly censored for pornographic content.

The unique type of censorship in Israel has encouraged many journalists to practice self-censorship, where each filmmaker censors his material before releasing it to the public. A high degree of professionalism is encouraged for journalists in Israel, as they are given a platform to compete with their international peers. A moderate form of censorship allows the Israeli people to have access to various genres of films that they can watch in cinemas. They are also given the chance to view a variety of television programs, which enlighten them on a wide range of topics (Rudoren 2014).

Importance of Censorship

Countries that practice media censorship have valid reasons for doing so. There are indeed positive impacts that censorship have, both to the government of those nations practicing restraint and the general public. Some of the benefits of censorship are politically oriented, while others have traditional and religious benefits.

One of the advantages of censorship is that, good morals, values and traditions of the people are maintained. According to Frater (2008) some of the western films as well as television programs lack moral uprightness. They portray sexual activity between unmarried men and women as if correct. Kissing in public is represented by several western films as normal. There are those films and cinemas that promote pornography, which is regarded as obscene in the Muslim community. Others support the marriage between people of the same sex. This is contrary to what many Middle East countries uphold, where sex is regarded as holy and should be practiced only by the legally married couple. Middle East countries are mainly of Islamic origin where marriage between people of the same sex is regarded as a taboo. Allowing such movies that portray sex between people of the same sex, and sexual intercourse between unmarried people will be violating the beliefs and faith of the Islamic community. This is one of the reasons as to why several Middle East countries censor television programs as well as the content to be watched in cinemas.

Worldwide, there are thousands of different religions. Each religion claims to be better than other forms of religion. To this effect, there have been cases where some non-Muslims have ridiculed the highly regarded prophet in Islam-Prophet Muhammad (BBC 2013). The ridicule has gone beyond as to be included in films and other television programs. In the event that the public within the Middle East countries watched such a cinema or a television program where the Prophet Muhammad is being ridiculed, then religious war is bound to occur. To prevent this, almost every Middle East country censors local and foreign films as well as television programs so that no program or movie that has some insult to the Islamic religion is released to the public. This is a bold and a useful measure that Middle East countries use in order to prevent any inter-religious war.

In today’s world, the media plays an important role in the development of any nation. The citizens of each country rely on the media for information and in some instances for guidance in several developmental agendas. It means that one individual television program or film may have a sounding impact on the public. It has been reported that, several Arab countries have in recent times experienced an uprising as a result of unregulated and uncontrolled media (Davidson 2006). The coup attempt and many other attempted coups in the past have made many the Middle East countries censor the kind of content that the public will be subjected to either through the television or films. They do this in an attempt to prevent future opposition to the ruling government in the form of coups or unprecedented uprising. Therefore, it is important for the Middle East governments to continue censoring media content in an effort to avert any planned coup arising from the media.

Another importance of censorship is that, journalists, as well as directors of movies and television programs, become more responsible for their actions (Rudoren 2014). Once the government lays out the content that should not be aired either on a television program or a movie in a cinema, and then the directors of such programs become more responsible for violation of the same would lead to fines or in imprisonment. Censorship also promotes creativity among film producers. In the event that individual elements are prohibited for viewing by the public, then film directors can become creative enough so as to give the intended message. However, it is presented in a different format and style that will not sound offensive or opposing the government’s directive.

Negative Impacts of Censorship

Censorship of the media has been imposed by several Middle East countries with valid reasons. However, there have been adverse consequences of the media censorship, where various television programs, as well as films, have been censored.

In countries where strict censorship of the media has been imposed, many of the journalists’ freedoms have been curtailed. Such countries include Saudi Arabia and Syria, where journalists cannot just air any material. Liang (2005) reveals that journalists in such countries have had to either air what the government wants them to air or face tough implications in the worst case scenarios. Some journalists have been killed, especially in a country like Saudi Arabia, where more than 20 journalists were killed in combat (Liang 2005). Other journalists have been forced to seek asylum in foreign countries as a result of continued curfew on the way news should be prepared and aired. Creativity and innovation are curtailed by the lack freedom of the press. Most of the journalists, more so film directors, are restricted in the way they can showcase their innovativeness and creativity. As a result, the public gets bored due to the same type of television programs and censored films.

The continued strict censorship on media has discouraged many potential young men and women who would have wanted to venture into journalism from joining the media profession. The killings and prosecution of their predecessors make them away from wishing to engage in such a trade (Insight 2009). This is not good for a country whose future development depends on such young, bright individuals. Some of the youth would have wished to engage in more artistic work, such as acting. However, their dreams are curtailed the moment such creative activities are highly censored and prohibited in some cases. This affects the creation of jobs, especially for the youth, yet this profession is capable of absorbing a good number of talented youth.

Censorship in most cases locks out foreign media content because most of foreign material is sometimes viewed as offensive and has scenes that would encourage bad behaviors. However, there is good international media content that is beneficial to the general public. As Davidson (2006) says, continued strict censorship of the foreign material might lock out the citizens from the outside world. This is detrimental to the growth of the nation, both economically and socially. Therefore, it is advisable to have censorship done moderately to allow the citizens of the Middle East countries be informed about the outside world.

Some countries like Saudi Arabia do not encourage women to participate in the media profession. Censorship in such countries prohibits viewing of women’s body parts, other than the face and hands. Although this can be argued to be strict adherence to the faith and traditions of the Islamic community, some women have been recorded as feeling discriminated as a result of this strict censorship (Liang 2005). The women are not allowed to buy movies from shops. They cannot present their grievances through the use of a television program or a film. This is outright discrimination against women and should be stopped in order to give women more freedom of expression.

Conclusion

Media censorship has been in practice in many Middle East countries for many years. Some of the countries that have strict censorship on television programs, as well as films, include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Examples of Middle East countries that have fair censorship in the media include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, as well as Israel. Most countries that practice censorship employ the use of censorship boards that vet the various television programs, as well as films that are intended for distribution within their nations. In most cases, the countries censor for content like pornography, kissing in public, marriage between partners of the same sex, drug abuse, insults to the Islam religion, and content that can affect the development of the young ones in the society.

Different Middle East countries have devised different mechanisms for censoring the various television programs and films. They also have slightly different reasons for conducting media censorship. Turkey, for example, uses penal codes, such as Articles 301 and 312 to prosecute journalists who are a threat to the government. This censorship in Turkey has resulted in the prosecution of several journalists to a point that the international community has raised its worry on the increased prosecution.

Iran started censorship on media on spiritual grounds. Religious leaders in this country had the thought that foreign television programs had teachings that gave contrary instructions to what they taught their followers. Currently, censorship on the media has been mainly in the Iranian political position, where journalists are not allowed to present any news on Iran’s nuclear power or talks that the government of Iran has with the United States. Other reasons that the government of Iran hold when imposing censorship on media include pornography, scenes of extreme violence, and any program that may sound like an insult to the religion of Islam.

Media censorship in Saudi Arabia is one of the strictest types of restriction that the world has experienced. There is only one state-owned television media house in Saudi Arabia, which gives the public what it terms as good for them. Journalists in this Middle East country have had to either comply with what the government demands or face the full wrath of the law. A number of the premier journalists have been killed on suspicion that they aired news that would ruin the political stability of the nation. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world that have not allowed the establishment of cinemas. It is ironical to say that the few actors and directors who had the gut to shoot a film in Saudi Arabia had to travel to foreign countries to watch what they produced in their homeland.

The Syrian government started censoring the media after an attempted coup in 1947. Since then, it has been extremely difficult for journalists to work in Syria. More than 20 journalists were killed in Syria in the year 2012, thereby affecting journalism adversely in Syria. Although local filming is allowed in Syria, each script has to undergo several screenings by the established filming board before being allowed to be shot and still have to be presented back to the board after shooting for cross–checking. This means that the content that the public views mainly through the television is right morally.

Egypt is regarded as the only Middle East country that is best to conduct filming. Censorship is moderate in Egypt, where the TV producers and film directors need to exercise self-censorship to ensure that their content is free from pornography, discrimination against particular professions, religion, and culture. It is the only Middle East country whose censorship board comprises of representatives from both the Islamic and Christian religions. Nevertheless, a few foreign journalists have been jailed for giving information that the Egyptian government deemed as offensive.

The United Arab Emirates has less stringent measures on local film production. Most of the local films are not censored, as their directors are highly trusted that they would exercise self-censorship. Foreign films are, however, censored for content that would be detrimental to the society.

Israel has a unique form of censorship, where the military is mandated to censor all media content to make sure that sensitive government information does not leak to the outside world. However, there is a board that censors local and foreign films. This board ensures that no film content has scenes of pornography, drug use, or discrimination against a particular group of individuals.

It can be concluded that censorship on television programs and cinemas has had both positive and negative impacts in the Middle East. Programs that could pose a moral threat to citizens of these countries have been revised or banned in a move to ensure that only good content reaches the public. On the other hand, a good number of journalists have been killed in some Middle East countries as a result of strict censorship measures. The citizens of these countries have been locked out from the outside world, as foreign media content is subjected to strict censorship that results in the omission of some scenes or banning of the entire program. One can recommend that the strict censorship of the media by the majority of the Middle East countries be lifted to allow the integration of artistic content from across the world.

Reference List

BBC 2013, Malaysia profile-media, Web. 

Davidson, C 2006, ‘After Sheikh Zayed: The politics of succession in Abu Dhabi and the UAE’, Middle East Policy, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-18.

Frater, P 2008, ‘Asia’s media under the gun’, The Variety, Web.

Iran Chamber Society 2012, History of Iran: ‘Islamic Revolution of 1979’, Web.

Liang, L 2005, ‘Cinematic citizenship and the illegal city’, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 6, n. 3, pp. 366-385.

Ministry of Home Affairs, Malaysia 2015, Security collective responsibility, Web.

Recknagel, C 2014, ‘Islamic revolution can’t upstage Iranian cinema’, Radio Liberty Europe, Web.

Rudoren, J 2014, ‘Military censorship in Israel’, Times Insider, Web.

The Insight 2009, Middle East controversy.

Watson, I 2008, ‘Dubai’s media censors tackle news, sex and politics’, National Public Radio, Web.