I was unceremoniously fired this month by my Saudi newspaper, a leading English-language daily called Arab News. I had been the senior columnist on the op-ed page for nine years. I had committed one of the three cardinal sins an Arab journalist must avoid when working for the Arab press: I criticized the government. The other two? Bringing up Islam as an issue and criticizing, by name, political leaders in the Arab or Islamic world for their brazen excesses, dismal failures, and blatant abuses.
What Arabs have yet to learn is that the Western democracies work better than many others because to them the concept of accountability, expected from the head of state on down, is a crucial function of their national ideology. People have, for generations, existed with an ethic of fear – fear of originality, fear of innovation, fear of spontaneity, fear of life itself – and have had instilled in them the need to accept orthodoxy, dependence, and submission.
The Arab world today is ruled for the most part by authoritarian regimes that rely on coercion, violence, and terror to rule, and that demand from their citizens submission, obedience and conformity. And that includes “journalists,” to whom, by now, responsibility to truth and logic has become irrelevant.