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Muslim pilgrims use their mobile phones upon arrival for the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

How Middle East Regimes Are Reasserting Control Over the Media

Monday, Oct. 2, 2017

Last month, Snap—the parent company for the popular social media app Snapchat—announced it would remove Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite network, from its platform inside Saudi Arabia in “an effort to comply with local laws,” as a Snap spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. Snap’s decision came on the heels of a June ultimatum by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to their rival Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, to close down the network completely—one of 13 conditions for ending their ongoing economic blockade of the tiny Gulf country.

The move to “silence freedom of expression,” as an Al-Jazeera spokesperson put it, by restricting the region’s largest broadcaster, along with threats facing social media platforms, bring into sharp focus the rollback of media freedom and influence across the Middle East over the past six years. Arab governments have steadily restricted the media environment that had made them vulnerable during the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. ...

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