The freedom of speech is one of the oldest forms of human rights, yet it is both directly and indirectly the most oppressed right of all. Leaders have never wanted their faithful to just "speak their minds". The reason behind this is not very hard to see. The key to successful dictatorships, observe "successful" as a relative term here, throughout history has always been their ability to keep people living under a very delicate film of fear, aided by the number one weapon which is limiting their freedom of speech. This psychological barrier is the one and only barrier that keeps people in line, making the trimming process of those who step out of the line much easier.
This exact practice can be observed clearly in Jordan. The Jordanian secret police, commonly known as "Al-Mukhabarat" have always been a hanging mouth-shutter in front of the average citizen, whenever anything governmental comes up in the normal flow of speech. I have, on too many occasions actually, had friends have a quick glance over their shoulders whenever the word "King" is mentioned. Maybe its just a kindly gesture or habit, or maybe it is a lifetime build up of fear that lives inside each and every one of us. For those who have read Harry Potter, or even seen the movies, the term Lord Voldermort who is known to many wizards as "he who must not be named" may bring the picture funnily closer to their minds.
Recent events in the Arab world are nothing more than the people gaining the ability to speak Lord Voldermort's name in public, maybe taking it a step further asking for "he who must not be named" to not be named .. at all!