The Listening Post

Arab Twitter: A tool for #freespeech or #surveillance?

From a Saudi spy scandal to suspicious account closures: Twitter in the Arab world. Plus, ‘red media’ in Taiwan.

On this episode of The Listening Post: From a Saudi spy scandal to suspicious closures of accounts, is Twitter in the Arab world really promoting free speech? Plus a report on “red media” in Taiwan.

Twitter in the Middle East

A court case unfolding in California reveals just how far the Saudi government is willing to go to watch its critics and silence them.

Two former Twitter employees have been charged with acting as Saudi agents back in 2015 and working with the authorities in Riyadh.

However, this story is not just about Saudi Arabia. It raises serious issues about Twitter working with questionable political actors and sacrificing its stated principles, for the sake of its bottom line.

Ali al-Ahmed – Director, The Institute for Gulf Affairs
Madawi al-Rasheed – Visiting professor, LSE Middle East Centre
Marc Owen Jones – Assistant professor, Hamad bin Khalifa University

On our radar 

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Meenakshi Ravi about the imprisonment of journalists in Nigeria.

Taiwan’s push against ‘red media’

In Taiwan, the media have taken centre stage in a debate over Chinese influence in the island nation.

Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Taiwanese protested against what they call “red media” that is, news outlets taken over by pro-Beijing owners and then suspected of getting editorial orders directly from the Chinese Communist Party.

With a key presidential election coming up in January 2020, many Taiwanese fear Beijing is using selected media outlets to influence the vote, and push Taiwan’s current pro-independence president, out of office.

Huang Kuo-chang – Legislator, Red Media Protest Organiser
Liao Chao-hsiang – Former journalist, China Times
Huang Jaw-nian – Author, The Political Economy of Press Freedom
J Michael Cole – Senior fellow, Global Taiwan Institute