Sunday, May 24, 2009
Swine Flu & Censorship in the Middle East
POST UPDATED BELOW
So today seems to have been a pretty big day in the Middle East.
Firstly, 18 American soldiers stationed in Kuwait have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, aka 'Swine Flu'. There's more details over on the BBC website, if you're interested. I thought it was an interesting fact that apparently there have been 12,022 cases of H1N1 diagnosed, but only like 80 have resulted in death. So obviously the whole thing is getting blown out of proportion.
I was talking to a friend earlier, and he said that if the H1N1 virus is in Kuwait, then it's here in Dubai. What do you guys think? Would the government try to suppress any reports of a Swine Flu outbreak? Or would they be open and transparent about the whole thing? Only time will tell I guess, as it looks like this thing is inevitably going to come to the UAE at some stage.
And secondly, Iran has blocked Facebook. Click here for more information, again from the BBC. The timing of the ban is interesting, with the elections coming up in June. I posted about this really interesting short animation about bloggers in Iran a month or so ago. It really surprised me that Iran has the third largest blogging population in the world. I also stumbled across an interesting article written by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek about global misconceptions of Iran.
The whole blocking websites thing is pretty pointless really. I've written before about the fact that certain sites like Flickr are blocked in the UAE. And while this is frustrating, there are widely-known ways around the blocks (which I won't mention specifically, they're not that hard to find). I hope that this is the same for people in Iran, and that they can continue to use the interest without censorship.
If anyone is visiting this site from Iran, leave a comment below, and let us know what's going on over there..
UPDATE: As Alexander has commented below, the UAE has confirmed its first official case of H1N1, or Swine Flu. Gulf News has more info. Apparently the patient is a tourist from Canada, who arrived on a recent flight to Dubai.
So far, the relevant authorities have been forthright with the information, which is clearly the best approach. Let's hope that the Canadian guy (or girl) in question gets well soon, and that this thing doesn't get out of hand, like it did in Egypt.