Arab countries looking to burnish their cosmopolitan credentials are opening their doors to Western journalism programs. Qatar hosts a branch of Northwestern University’s journalism school, Amman has a graduate school founded by a Columbia alumna, and Dubai attracts students to its Michigan State program in media management and research, reports Justin D. Martin in The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 28, 2010).
However, Martin notes, these same countries are not exactly paragons of unfettered expression and typically rank low in global assessments of press freedoms by civil liberties watchdog groups such as Freedom House. “Shiny journalism facilities in Doha and Dubai that gleam in the Arabian sun betray the dank realities that Arab journalists in these places endure,” he writes, noting that in Qatar, journalists are prohibited from criticizing Islam, the national government, or the royal family. And the United Arab Emirates, home of Dubai’s Michigan State program, sits in the bottom quarter of Freedom House’s rankings.
Martin is unsparing even of Egypt, where he teaches journalism at the American University in Cairo: “It’s difficult to imbue my students with watchdog instincts and the courage to monitor power when they see dissident Egyptian journalists, bloggers, and activists routinely dragged off to prison.”