At a time when the increasingly powerful Saudi crown prince is promoting his openness to economic and some social reforms, al-Nafjan and other activists are fighting for women’s rights that go beyond the lifting of the driving ban. Yet their arrest is a clear sign that further improvements in women’s rights are a long way off.
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According to Transparency International, Jordan was ranked 59th of 180 in terms of perception of corruption in 2017 with a score of 48 out of 100, with 0 being highly corrupted and 100 very clean. Jordan’s penal code criminalizes corruption, including abuse of office, bribery, money laundering and extortion, but the government didn’t implement the law effectively.
The new channel will carry a heavy focus on local news, in addition to regional and international coverage, and will create a closer bond with Jordanian citizens by providing a forum for all voices to be heard. The channel will be geared to the local audience first and foremost but also the Arab and global audiences who want to know more about what is happening in Jordan. However, it will need true independence and a desire to provide critical coverage of Jordan’s leaders and institutions.
However, investing in the infrastructure alone will not free Saudi society from the shackles of a medieval mindset that governs all aspects of life: the relationship between the ruler and those ruled, between men and women and between native and migrant labour. Scientific thinking needs a socially and intellectually fertile environment to flourish. That environment has yet to emerge in Saudi Arabia.
Whatever the case, such dramatic changes come at a price. The crown prince is consolidating power to a degree Saudi Arabia has not seen in generations. MBS has dismantled that system, alienating almost everyone and fundamentally altering the governance dynamics of the kingdom. By consolidating power, MBS seems to be offering a larger degree of social freedom, but there can surely be little room for dissent during this mega-transformation.