Source: The Economist

It is as if China ordered Britain to shut down the BBC.

Irony is not dead in the Middle East. In April Saudi Arabia, a land where women may not drive, or leave the country without the written permission of a male “guardian”, or appear in public without an all-enveloping cloak, was elected to the UN’s committee on women’s rights. Now that same monarchy, where the government censors everything from political dissent to risqué Rubens paintings, and where a pro-democracy blogger named Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in jail, is trying to shut down the only big, feisty broadcaster in the Arab world, Al Jazeera. This is an extraordinary, extraterritorial assault on free speech. It is as if China had ordered Britain to abolish the BBC.

Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a tiny, wealthy Gulf state that the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians are subjecting to a heavy-handed blockade. Qatar’s sins, in Saudi eyes, are manifold. It is friendly with Iran (though so are Oman and Dubai, which are not subject to the same strictures). It harbours dozens of people the Saudis do not like, including some with close links to groups affiliated to al-Qaeda. And it owns Al Jazeera.  READ MORE…

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