For me, the Middle East has always been a mysterious, struggling place and people. So many cultures. So many beliefs. So many views. And all in such close proximity to one another. Its rapid changes and complexities is what keeps us all guessing.
Baghdadiya is a satellite channel best known for its infamous reporter Muntader al-Zaidi, or the guy who threw his shoe at former President George W. Bush in 2008. The channel broadcasts from Cairo and is notoriously known for controversial programs, even hosting a morning program that allows for viewers to share their criticisms of the government. The channel is as opposite to censorship as the Middle East, or perhaps any region, can possibly achieve.
But this past week, it all ended and a banner hung from the empty studio: “The Closing of Baghdadiya is a Funeral for Democracy.”
On All Hallows Eve, government officials arrested two of Baghdadiya’s employees on allegations that they were working with terrorists. The officials then forced everyone to vacate and closed the studio.
Juma Hilfi, media adviser to Baghdad’s licensing commission, ordered the arrests and claimed the station violated regulations governed by the Communications and Media Commission, specifically mentioning a show when the channel played pranks on actors by having fake security officials find bombs in their vehicles and then question them on suspicions of terroristic involvement.
In America, this is known as a parody, a protected form of speech. It is imperative that we are all thinking about certain issues - even intertwined with humor -that affect our lives and futures. Bluntly stating something is too harsh for some, but when the same message is shared in a parody, it opens up our minds to think, “hmmm…”
Again, I say one thing to Baghdadiya: Bravo! It is not so much that I support everything they report or their views, but that I applaud them for stepping out and opening doors to the future in such a turmoil state. Bravo for being different and speaking your mind. Bravo for breaking the silence.
Let’s hope that the recent shut down of the station will cause others in the region to second guess censorship regulations currently practiced. The long road to freedom still lies ahead and the Middle East has a long way to go, but Baghdad is on her way.