News / Middle East

Arab Media Re-Defines Itself Post-Arab Spring

FILE - Al Jazeera English Channel staff prepare for the broadcast in Doha news room in Qatar.
FILE - Al Jazeera English Channel staff prepare for the broadcast in Doha news room in Qatar.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
— Has the Arab media helped foster political pluralism or has it further divided societies along political and sectarian lines since the Arab Spring?  Experts say while the Arab media played a key role in the ouster of several authoritarian governments, in countries since then, media outlets have taken political sides leading to political and sectarian polarization.  

Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of journalism and mass communications at the American University in Cairo says while the media played a key role in Egypt promoting democracy in the early days of the Arab Spring -- that changed dramatically after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi last July.

“Since July 3, the Egyptian media have covered current events in a hysterical manner, and the media narrative is almost completely one-sided. There are palpable narratives of military adulation and hyper nationalism, and forces against the military coup are portrayed as treasonous, treacherous, and terrorist,” said Elmasry

Media outlets exploded in Libya in the wake of the revolution that ousted longtime-dictator Moammar Gadhafi but Aly Abuzaakouk, a leading pro-democracy Libyan activist, based in Benghazi, says since then the media has not always played a constructive role.

“While there are some media outlets that proved to be professional and inclusive, there are others who are focused on mobilizing their respective audience to support tribalism and regionalism,” he said.

And journalists are increasingly in danger in Libya.  Reporters Without Borders recently warned against mounting violence against journalists there and urged authorities to do more to “improve the environment in which the country’s journalists work.”

The impact of social media

Social media has transformed the Arab media world but whether it has hurt or helped Arab societies is an open question.

Sahar Khamis, a professor at the University of Maryland, says initially social media empowered many ordinary citizens.

“Al Jazeera disseminated this type of media content by asking citizens to send their videos online; this citizen journalism encouraged undecided citizens to come out and participate,” she said.

But Khamis says since then, social media outlets have been used as pawns in a larger political struggle.

“When people have a shared goal like ousting dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria, social media became a tool for unifying people, but if people are divided and fragmented like Egyptians after ousting President Mohamed Morsi, then social media becomes a tool for polarization, widening the gap between political rivals,” Khamis said. 

Sara El-Khalili, a journalism lecturer at the American University in Cairo says the Egyptian military has been especially effective using social media to promote its agenda. 

“Realizing the need to speak the same language of Egyptian youth, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces created an official Facebook page to communicate with the people,” she said.

Sahar Khamis also says governments and other state actors are getting better at using social media as a tool for repression.

“Some Arab regimes were able to hack political activists’ websites.  The Syrian Electronic Army was able to trace the electronic addresses of different activists and blocked them.

In Libya security forces traced an activist who used his home computer as a broadcasting station and shot him to death,” she said. 

The recent court case in Egypt against five Al Jazeera journalists accused of engaging with a terrorist organization and disseminating false information says Khamis is a real setback to the sort of pluralism that social media tried to promote.

“The message now is clear; if you are not telling the pro-Egyptian government narrative, you run harsh consequences. This is a form of media intimidation because it means that any attempt to balance the story by including the Muslim Brotherhood narrative means running the risk of being stigmatized as communicating with a banned terrorist organization,” she said.

Tunisia breaks the cycle

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has taken a different path.  Oussama Romdhani, a former minister of communications in Tunisia says because of strong civil society protections like independent media unions and a regulatory body that protects media workers, Tunisia’s media has managed to emerge as a major force for promoting pluralism in a post-Arab Spring society.

“Radio and television stations, including public-owned institutions, have become really- pluralistic forums.  By allowing the expression of vying views and by providing unfettered access to political events, public and private media have been able to promote democratic pluralism,” he said.

Romdhani says Tunisia’s media played a constructive role in educating the public about contentious political issues, but he warns that continuing civil strife has led to a tendency among some media outlets to make political activism their first priority at the expense of balance.

“Whether motivated by business interests or political/ideological agendas, such media factionalism can increase confrontation instead of pluralistic debates. It can even endanger the unity of already-divided Arab societies.” Romdhani said.

The way forward

Mohamed Elmasry says the Arab media is in need of a comprehensive overhaul.

“I think that journalism education, first and foremost, needs to be restructured. Currently, the quality of journalism education in the Arab world is lacking, and the quality of education is especially problematic in Egypt. Journalists are in need of much more training on the principles of journalism, and how to write news,” he said.

He also recommends establishing an independent body of scholars and professional journalists to monitor the performance of the press, establish guidelines, and provide constant feedback to journalists and news organizations.

“I think giving news organizations the educational tools to act professionally, and holding news organizations to a higher standard of professionalism, will go a long way towards ensuring pluralism,” said Elmasry.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Commerce from: USA - TV
March 28, 2014 4:38 PM
AlJazeera is a septic contagion that must be eradicate from the US media. I absolutely agree with the sentiments expressed here. AlJazeera facilitates and encourage terrorist activities against the US, Israel and Europe. Al Jazeera must be expunged from our broadcast spectrum.


by: Donna Martin from: UK
March 08, 2014 9:13 PM
PLEASE...!!! Al Jazeera is the PR branch of Islamic terrorist organization... and no amount of "redefinition" will obscure the fact... and the BBC purified corruption is becoming almost indistinguishable from Al Jazeera.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid