But I worked in a region where almost every Arab journalist knows the importance of self-censorship – or direct censorship – and where kings and dictators do not need to give orders. They have satraps and ministers and senior police officers – and ”democratic” governments – who know their wishes, their likes and dislikes. And they do what they believe their master wants. Of course, they all told me this was not true and went on to assert that their king/president was always right.
These past two weeks, I have been thinking of what it was like to work for Murdoch, what was wrong about it, about the use of power by proxy. For Murdoch could never be blamed. Murdoch was more caliph than ever, no more responsible for an editorial or a ”news” story than a president of Syria is for a massacre – the latter would be carried out on the orders of governors who could always be tried or sacked or sent off as adviser to a prime minister – and the leader would invariably anoint his son as his successor. Think of Hafez and Bashar Assad or Hosni and Gamal Mubarak or Rupert and James. In the Middle East, Arab journalists knew what their masters wanted, and helped to create a journalistic desert without the water of freedom, an utterly skewed version of reality. So, too, within the Murdoch empire.