Of course, there are plenty of journalistic nuances that aren’t always evident in press freedom indices like those from Freedom House or Reporters Without Borders. In Qatar, for example, journalists are often free to boldly report on the governments of other countries, but may not cross the royals in Doha. Most daily newspapers in Kuwait are privately owned and can be quite vocal. Dailies in the United Arab Emirates are owned mostly by well-heeled royals and stirred by their silver spoons, but there are free speech protections for foreign media organizations operating from, say, Dubai.

Nuance aside, stifled speech tends to be the rule in the world’s rentier economies, and robust press protections a narrow exception. Rent-rich governments tend to host media systems that are free-speech poor.

Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin