We love cheetahs, but shut up about democracy

The government of Bahrain will roll out the welcome mat in October for the Arabic edition of National Geographic.

Ali Abdulemam

The government of Bahrain also just arrested Ali Abdulemam, a leading Bahraini blogger and democracy activist.

According to Global Voices, Abdulemam “was arrested earlier today by the Bahraini authorities for allegedly spreading ‘false news’ on BahrainOnline.org portal, one of the most popular pro-democracy outlets in Bahrain, amidst the worst sectarian crackdown by the government in years. The BahrainOnline portal is censored in Bahrain. He sent an email earlier today mentioning that he got a call from the Bahraini national security just before his arrest, then arrested him and alleged that he was trying to flee.”

Why is our Society’s official journal welcomed in Bahrain while journalists like Ali Abdulemam are arrested?

Here’s our guess: National Geographic has neutered itself, and now scrupulously avoids celebrating the values and vision that made it great. As a result, NGM is no longer interested in publishing stories such as this one:

NGM February 1976

Or this one:

NGM September 1987

Or this one:

NGM January 1964

Or many other NGM stories that pre-date our Society’s ambition to become a global brand by “inspiring people to care about the planet.”

NGM’s emphasis on the global environment — and de-emphasis of our democratic values — may please the bullies in Bahrain who lock up bloggers. But it reflects a painful case of institutional Alzheimer’s among the senior executives who control our Society.

Out here, we still believe Jefferson, Madison, and other “architects of freedom” have something to teach us and our kids. We still believe these ideas and values should have a prominent place in the pages of National Geographic. For we still believe that democracy and self-government are among the greatest adventures of all.

Any thoughts, John Fahey? Terry Adamson? Chris Johns? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments, below.

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≡ photo of Ali Abdulemam via Global Voices

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