An Arab Awakening blog post at openDemocracy, written by Michael Stephens, has provoked Nick Cohen's ire, as you can see in his Spectator blog today.
At oD we revel in sharp debate between a plurality of opposing voices. We believe in openness and that this leads to a more nuanced view of reality than keeping to a strict editorial line. We therefore welcome Cohen's reply to Stephens, our only regret is that we didn't alert him to it ourselves and invite him to reply within our own columns.
openDemocracy is in some ways an unusual creature in the media fauna, some might find it hard to get a grip on. Cohen's misunderstanding of our nature leads him to address openDemocracy as the originator of the tone and opinions expressed in the piece he critiques. I want to take that as an opportunity to point out some of our characteristics.
There is no such thing as an openDemocracy "tone" or "belief" - that is outside our strongly held values of democracy, human rights and transparency. When we publish a piece of writing, whether blog post or in-depth analysis, we do so because we believe the author brings a valuable perspective to the table. We think Michael Stephens did so when he wrote on how Cohen's Observer article could be perceived in Qatar, and stand squarely by the decision to run it. The parts of Cohen's reply in the Spectator that actually addresses Stephens’ points would unquestionably pass the same criteria.
Any attempt to define a monolithic oD belief based on the opinions published within it would show it to be a very varied and at times deeply contradictory one. We don't believe in carrying only "a belief", but that you should be exposed to many - that's why we treasure debates and comments based on investigation and expertise. Not only are our writers a varied bunch, our editors often disagree too, and have a larger degree of autonomy than in most publications. Our specialist sections and debates (like those on security, Russia or Arab Awakening) act independently, without needing their editorial judgement approved by an overarching hierarchy.
I hope Cohen will consider replying to oD on oD next time, and in the meantime let me recommend to him our 50.50 section, where he will find an abundance of good writing on women's rights, fundamentalism and secularism, much of it from a perspective he would appreciate.
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