Experiences after the Arab Spring and Iraq: change of regime is not enough.
Western hopes for a more liberal society, more citizens’ rights and greater freedom of the press after the Arab Spring have not been fulfilled. Anyone who listened to colleagues from these countries at the recent World Congress of the International Press Institute must come to the conclusion: Little is better, and much has even become worse.
Data shows that current governments are taking action even more sharply against journalists than prior regimes. In Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak, there were 1,200 proceedings against journalists in 30 years. In the time up to the presidential elections last year, 12,000 cases were registered in the courts. Since the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Mohamed Morsi entered office, just as many cases have been registered once again. In Tunisia, where uprisings have ended, journalists reported censorship and intimidation last year at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day International Conference. In April alone, more than 53 proceedings against media representatives were reported from Tunisia. Intensified actions are being taken against journalists in Yemen and Bahrain as well. And in Jordan, officials want to more heavily regulate Internet services.
Not even colleagues who send reports from Syria to places all over the world know what exactly is happening there. Thirty-nine journalists lost their lives in the past year in Syria alone. With astonishing openness at the convention in Amman, native journalists and staff of renowned media outlets like the BBC admitted that they have no clear picture of the situation in the country because it is impossible to hear both sides involved the conflict.
Explosive Situation in Syria
If people who are on the scene do not find themselves capable of making an assessment, then how are diplomats, military personnel and politicians supposed to make decisions? With the Syrian opposition forces it is also not clear: Who are the good ones, and can an intervention by the West turn out well? Great Britain and France, who have already intervened in Libya and Mali, have forced an end to the EU weapons embargo over the resistance of countries like Austria and with that have compromised the demand for a common EU foreign policy. The British and French want to prove themselves as global crisis managers and fill the gap the hesitant U.S. has left in the Arab-Muslim world. French special forces are already training in Jordan for deployment in Syria, according to media reports.
That Russia has moved into position on the side of Bashar al-Assad with the announced delivery of combat aircraft and defensive missiles and reacted to the EU decision makes the situation even more explosive. The opposition is splintered and has maneuvered itself offside with its conditions for participation in the Syrian Peace Conference.
The experiences after the Arab Spring began in December 2010, as well as the “war on terror” declared by then President George W. Bush in 2001 and officially ended by his successor Barack Obama a short time ago, show that things don’t always simply change for the good when dictators are deposed and foreign soldiers are sent into a country for pacification. That is the wishful thinking of the West — the reality in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and above all in Iraq looks quite different.