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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs