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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Social Media and Arab Revolution

The online journal Arab Media & Society has published its new issue that covers the role of media in the Arab Spring events. Twelve articles, two of them peer reviewed, are available online or in the PDF format for download. Arab Media & Society, formerly TBS Journal, is a joint project of The Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo and the Centre for Middle East Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.
The Spring 2011 issue of Arab Media and Society takes a preliminary look at the role of the media in the unrest that has swept the Middle East and North Africa over the past six months, starting in Tunisia in December 2010 and then spreading to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Protests soon led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but other leaders have survived for the time being by using brutal force against protesters. Many media commentators initially called the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions Facebook or Twitter revolutions because the social networking applications helped the revolutionaries organize and publicize their activities. Other analysts have been more cautious, saying that social networking and the Internet was useful tools that accelerated political change, but personal contacts, old-fashioned canvasing and conventional media were also crucial.
Dr Sahar Khamis gives a comprehensive overview of the role of new media in the overthrow of Mubarak and wonders whether the same tools will enable activists to keep up the pressure for change during what could a lengthy transitional period.
Dr Mark Allen Peterson contrasts the Egyptian mediascape in 2011 with its Iranian counterpart in 1979 and concludes that, unlike Iran, Egypt is unlikely to revert to a pre-revolutionary status quo which included state domination of the media.
Dr Ramy Aly argues that Egypt's revolutionary moment is a golden opportunity to abandon old media practices which deprived many sectors of society of a media voice and privileged a narrow and elitist concept of what it means to be Egyptian.
El Mustapha Lahlali takes a close look at the rhetorical devices by which both Ben Ali and Mubarak tried to retain power when they addressed their nations at critical junctures during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings.
Magdalena Maria Karolak looks at the output of Bahraini bloggers and concludes that although the bloggers initially contributed to civil society activism, the polarization of Bahrain society has since penetrated the blogosphere itself.
Anne Hagood looks at the political narratives adopted by Iraqi Shi'ites sympathetic to the cause of their fellow Shi'ites in Bahrain and specifically at the parallels Iraqis have drawn between the conflict in Bahrain and their own conflict against the Baathist regime overthrown in 2003.
Alice Hlidkova reports on the state of the media in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the reality does not always live up to the ideals promulgated by those who run the autonomous region.
Leah Caldwell looks at the symbolism of attacks on statues and posters of the Asad family during the recent protests in Syria – attacks which would have been unthinkable before the unrest began.
Dr Lara N. Dotson-Renta examines the activities of cross-cultural hip-hoppers and rappers inspired by the Arab uprisings and how they have strengthened the ties between diaspora Arabs and those who continue to live in the region.
Courtney C. Radsch discusses the interplay between the economic benefits of good communications, the willingness of Arab regimes to close down the Internet and mobile phone networks when they think their survival is at stake, and the role of multinational companies in the region.
Michael Oghia and Helen Indelicato research Internet ownership in key Arab countries, noting the differences in the extent of state control and in the levels of private and foreign investment in the infrastructure.
William Youmans analyzes the debate in Burlington, Vermont, over whether the local cable TV company should or should not carry Al Jazeera English. He concludes that Burlington was a special case, rather than the harbinger of a breakthrough into the US market for AJE.
The latest issue of the Arab Media & Society is available online.

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