Volume 2, No. 1
Special issue: Covering the Arab Spring:
Middle East in the Media – the Media in the Middle East
Ehab Galal & Riem Spielhaus
Peer Reviewed Articles
Media as actors for change?
Holding Back The Flood: Regimes of Censorship in the Middle East & North Africa in Comparative Perspective (article in English)
Amr Osman & Marwa Abdel Samei
The Media and the Making of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution (article in English)
Altering Courses in Unknown Waters: Interaction between Traditional and New Media during the first Months of the Syrian Uprising (article in English)
Reshaping the Hegemony: State-Owned Media in Egypt after the Revolution (article in English)
Covering The Arab Spring beyond the Middle East
Massimo Di Ricco
The Arab Spring is a Latin American Winter: TeleSUR’s “Ideological Approach” and the Breakaway from the Al-Jazeera Network (article in English)
Mikkel Fugl Eskjær
Changing Revolutions, Changing Attention? Comparing Danish Press Coverage of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Syria (article in English)
Journalism’s Rewriting of History in Reporting the Arab Spring (article in English)
Zelizer, Barbie/ Allan, Stuart (eds.): Journalism after September 11 (2011) (review in German)
Corinna Peil: Mobilkommunikation in Japan. Zur kulturellen Infrastruktur der Handy-Aneignung (2011) (review in German)
As the events usually referred to as ‘the Arab Spring’ unfolded in Arab countries throughout the first half of the year 2011, conventional as well as social media were attributed a crucial role by observers as not only reporting what was going on but also by potentially taking part in mobilizing people for change. The involvement of media in the events raises vital questions about the role of TV, press, and social media in political unrests and how they are used as means to articulate or ignore frustrations of Arab populations. These questions concern the contributions of this special issue that brings together articles from various disciplines describing and analyzing specific cases of media coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ especially during the first months of 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. By offering insights to a set of mediatized spaces in and outside the Middle East during the first months of the uprisings, the aim of this special issue of Global Media Journal – German Edition is to provide a basis for critical reflections with regard to media and opinion formation. Moreover, it aims to discuss research strategies and methodologies which are being applied to the analysis of interaction between media, politics and emerging cultural practices. “Covering the Arab Spring” builds on studies on media in the Middle East and on the perception of the Middle East and Islam in Europe. Thus, the articles refer to a twofold role of the media by connecting research on the role of media in Arab speaking countries with research on media representation of events in these countries.
In order to investigate the relationship between censorship and popular uprisings, I survey trends in repression of information across Iran and the Arab states of the Middle East & North Africa over several decades to see if the recent wave of popular mobilization appears to respond to changes in the degree of repression in particular countries. I argue that while the available data is inconclusive, there is little support for the idea that partial liberalization provokes revolutionary outbreaks and conversely some support for high or increasing repression of expression as a contributor to regime-challenging popular mobilization.
While views may differ on the factors that made the 2011 Egyptian revolution possible, the role of mass media will remain undisputable. The Internet-based social networks caught the Mubarak regime by surprise, and the popular disillusionment with the ‘national’ media led the public to turn to private newspapers and satellite channels for keeping pace with the events. This paper examines the role of specific media during the 18 days of the 2011 Egyptian revolution – from 25 January to 11 February, 2011 – which we have divided into four parts. It discusses how these media contributed to the unfolding of events, conceptualized the protests and the demands of the public, and presented the actors that participated in or opposed the revolution. These points are addressed by discussing the content of the Facebook pages of the Sixth of April Movement and We Are All Khalid Said, as well as that of a private Egyptian newspaper, al-Shuruq, and the state-run newspaper al-Ahram.
This papers aims at investigating the relationship between traditional and social media during the first six months of the Syrian uprising. Thanks to direct testimony made available to the author by various cyber activists inside and outside Syria and through constant monitoring of the official propaganda and the coverage of the Syrian events by the two main pan-Arab satellite TVs, this article intends to investigate how both the regime and the activists attempt to represent the “real events on the ground”. In a country where the foreign and pan-Arab press have been mostly expelled since the beginning of the protests and the consequent repression, these two opposite poles heavily fight on the media level. On the one hand, the propaganda dominates traditional media and has sought to show familiarity with new methods, while maintaining the same content and rhetorical tone. On the other hand, the activists, masters of the new media, attempted to overcome the limitations of their tools, aiming at more traditional forms of communication. In both cases, the Internet has emerged as the main weapon of this media confrontation.
The popular revolution in Egypt has proven that the state-owned media was far from being the public opinion’s shaper. Yet, it was the sole arena where intellectuals – or rather ‘confirmed’ intellectuals – could exchange views, shape the hegemonic discourse and dictate the consensus, according to the regime’s parameters. That media, and especially the printed press, had crystallized the Egyptian intellectual elite, which by its mere association with the regime has alienated itself from any counter-elite or counter public. Its legitimacy and status stemmed mostly from its political affiliation.
My argument is that the survival of the state-owned media after the revolution is not just about functionality, but rather about the survivability of an elite that cannot be replaced. This elite has certainly ‘to pay a price’ for its betrayal, blindness, lack of courage and neglect. It has to be born again in the same arena where it had committed its ‘intellectual crimes’ and to create a new hegemonic discourse in the same sphere were the previous regime had corrupted the discourse. However, it is not just about punishing and redeeming the old elites. It is about legitimizing the new discourse that is being created by the revolutionary public. As if the adoption of the new discourse by the state’s media will be the ultimate symbol of its acceptance.In my paper, I intend to show the extent of adoption of the new discourse, and the changes in roles of the state’s media in legitimizing the new discourse.
The Arab Spring represents a breaking point in the cooperation between the pan-Latin American satellite television TeleSUR and Al-Jazeera. Even if in February TeleSUR firmly condemned the closure by Egyptian authorities of the Al-Jazeera Cairo offices, NATO military intervention in Libya and the beginning of protests in Syria provoked an important change in TeleSUR coverage of the Arab Spring. This shift coincided with a departure from the Al-Jazeera network, sanctioning the possible end of a collaboration that always had strong political connotations. TeleSUR joined the cause of the protesters in the coverage of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings, meanwhile it took what we can refer to as an “ideological approach” in the coverage of the uprisings after the international intervention in Libya, implicitly embracing the official media version of the Arab regimes. This stance sparked controversy especially within grassroots Latin American movements, igniting a strong debate mainly visible on the web. At an international level, the undeclared departure from the Al-Jazeera network reflects the future split between leftist Latin American governments, who embrace and fund the multi-state TV network TeleSUR, and the forces that will come out from the Arab Spring. Finally, the Arab Spring represented a missing opportunity for TeleSUR to play an important role in global media, and not only for a national or regional audience. Indeed, TeleSUR gave more importance to the political interests of the channel’s founders, than in pursuing a balanced information out of ideological interests or geopolitical strategies.
The Arab Spring has generated unprecedented attention to the Arab world in Western news media. This paper presents a comparative study of Danish press coverage of the uprisings in Tunisia and Syria during the early months of the Arab Spring (January-March 2011). The study is based on a mixed quantitative and qualitative content analysis aimed at identifying patterns of news reporting of the Arab Spring. The investigation looks into whether temporal developments of the Arab revolutions, the level of journalistic presence in the region, and national differences influence Danish press coverage of the Arab Spring. The findings indicate that media coverage of the Arab Spring points in different directions. On the one hand there has been a remarkable increase in media attention to the Middle East in purely quantitative terms. On the other hand the study finds that a number of traditional media patterns persist, not least in relation to media perceptions of Islam and democracy, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the ability to reform the Arab world from the inside.
Investigation of journalism’s role as writer and rewriter of the record of political episodes of world importance is central to this article, which takes an empirical approach in choosing the Danish press coverage of The Arab Spring as its starting point. The article analyses how a number of historical references to, in particular, European revolutionary history from Eastern Europe in 1989, are woven into the journalistic descriptions of events in Tunisia and Egypt. But the analysis also reflects on journalism’s own historical precedents in that field. Therefore, this paper takes the topics and circumstances that put Tunisia and Egypt on the Danish media’s agenda in the year before the Arab revolutions as a starting point. The central point of this comparison is to convey how journalism, while describing contemporary events of The Arab Spring, at the same time rewrites its own prior commentary on the region. Rewriting history in this way gives journalism a neutral and unassailable position as observer of events of world-wide importance, but it brings in its train other problems with staying true to both the readers and to unfolding events.