PD News – Media Monitor Reports
By Naomi Leight
Summarized by Maya Babla
Since December 2010, the symbolism of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation has been oft-cited as the signal of the start of turbulence, revolution, and a new Middle East. Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, received a posthumous Sakharov Prize for Freedom Thought, not only for the effect of his martyrdom in Tunisia, but for the domino effect it had on the region. English-language media coverage of the Arab Spring, however, did neglect Tunisia in many ways, typically mentioning it as the spark, but rarely focusing on the small North African state itself.
Instead, Tunisia was quickly lumped together with Egypt, and perhaps overpowered by the media appeal of Tahrir Square, which persisted for so many weeks. The stories specifically focused on Tunisia that did appear were those that connected Tunisia to the European Union in some way, as European powers sought to fill the paucity of official leadership with their own. The New York Times reported on February 24, 2011 that President Sarkozy was “scrambling to signal to the world that France is back on track…treading with a sure foot in the changed Middle East”, while the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague launched a “reform tour” including a visit to Tunisia, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton referred to North Africa as “our neighborhood,” suggesting Europe’s claim on the region. Meanwhile, the United States was seemingly absent from the public discussion about Tunisia, besides offering its official stamp of approval on January 9. When outgoing Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale visited Tunisia in April, the tour received little media attention.
The significance of the ousting of Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was that it transformed the will of the people into a tangible reality, indicating that big changes would follow throughout the region. With Tunisia an example, authoritarian leaders from all over the world began questioning if they were next, from Yemen to South Africa to Azerbaijan.
The other aspect of the Tunisia story that made headlines was the question of immigration, noting the optimism of Tunisian diaspora communities in Italy and Spain. Other media mentions of Tunisia focused on Tunisians that made the journey by boat to Europe and was referred to as an immigration “crisis” in the press – as European officials struggled to enforce migration policies in cooperation with their Tunisian counterparts. However, media coverage of Tunisians fleeing their country for Italy can best be characterized as sympathetic, as suggested by the March 23, 2011 headline, “Now Feeling Free, but Still Without Work, Tunisians Look Toward Europe.”
Ever Changing Egypt
Summarized by Rachel Chan
In January 2011, when the Arab world’s most populous Muslim country erupted in mass demonstrations in retaliation to the heavy-handed rule of then-President Hosni Mubarak and his police state, the world turned its focus to the role of social media like Twitter and Facebook and the Qatari satellite network Al Jazeera. Not only did these communication technologies bear witness to the unfolding of events in real-time, with up-to-the-minute groundbreaking coverage of the revolution, they also played a role in rallying protestors while acting as a mouthpiece of the crowds in Cairo. Following 18 days of anti-government street protests, Mubarak relinquished power to the military on February 11, 2011.
Emerging from media coverage of the Egyptian revolution was a demystification of this region for much of the world, painting a very different picture to that shown on state-owned media which broadcast deceptive scenes of order and happy Egyptians set to the tune of the national anthem. Al Jazeera provided 24-hour Arabic and English coverage of the Arab Spring protests, broadcast on satellite television and streamed live on its website, with its Twitter feed regularly updated. Network journalists in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria stayed on the ground with ordinary Egyptians, documenting footage of demonstrators as they resisted authorities. For Al Jazeera, this is what its former head Wadah Khanfar dubbed “journalism of depth,” in which the media “regards the collective conscience of the masses to be its point of departure” and “seeks to give the masses a voice and a platform”.
On the part of social media, the depth of engagement that it offers “provides a complex and deep infrastructure perfect for the activist processes of social transformation” writes Simon Mainwaring, that are “accessible to everyone, available 24/7, infinitely scalable, real time and free”. Rather than actually starting the revolution, Mainwaring emphasizes that social media is neutral but is used to “tell the story of the future” and echo the “wants and needs of more people”. In reality, the revolution broke out in response to widespread unhappiness with corruption, unemployment and economic woes, but these factors often get overlooked by the prominent role given to social media.
At the same time, the Egyptian crisis has put U.S. public diplomacy in the spotlight, given the tenuous relationship between the two countries. Calling to mind President Obama’s grand speech in Cairo in 2009, U.S. public diplomacy in Egypt has, for all its intentions, failed to produce a lasting and meaningful impact on its target audience. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review by the U.S. Department of State underscored the importance of undertaking initiatives that truly make a positive impact in the lives of Egyptians in order to win friends rather than simply extolling the virtues of the United States. As Philip Seib argues, U.S. public diplomacy in Egypt must eschew “self-serving propaganda” and “put greater emphasis on service to the individuals around the world whom America wants to court”.
This January, Egypt commemorated the first anniversary of the uprising and the country continues to struggle with the unpredictability that necessarily follows after any revolution. The Egyptian military still remains in charge, as “the sole institution that remained cohesive after the revolution”. What has changed, however, is a sense of conviction among citizens of the power of people and the media in effecting transformative change.
International Intervention in Libya
Summarized by Molly Krasnodebska
Events in Libya featured prominently in international media in early February 2011, as the protest movements began to gain momentum. After the breakout of a large-scale revolt on February 22 and the Gadhafi regime’s violent attempts to suppress it, a robust discussion about international response, including a possible UN resolution condemning the Libyan government’s actions, arose.
Many governments, especially Western nations, recognized the events as an opportunity not only for Libya, but also for themselves. Supporting the democratization efforts in North Africa could help nations to foster their own soft power appeal in the eyes of the international community. The European Union and some of its member states in particular, viewed the crisis as a chance to test their role as global players. "If we can succeed in bringing more democracy and more stability to North Africa and to the wider Middle East, then that will be the greatest achievement of the European Union since the enlargement of the EU," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
France became the first Western nation to recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council, established by anti-Gadhafi forces. As The New York Times reported, “France’s aggressive diplomatic stance is seen as a way of showing commitment to the popular uprisings and democratic changes in the Middle East and North Africa.”
As Gulf News remarked, these efforts were not unrelated to a certain degree of embarrassment among Western leaders for the “West’s disgraceful handling of Libya” in the past, illustrated by close economic and diplomatic relations of countries like the U.S., Britain, France, or Germany with the Gadhafi regime.
As some commentators remarked, the United States remained more restrained in the Libyan intervention than expected. Although initially leading the military campaign, President Obama was quick to announce that the U.S. role in Libya would be limited, and declared that America “would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners.” The Obama Administration was careful to present the war as an international effort, rather than a U.S.-led intervention, wrote Michael D. Shear in The Caucus.
The allied operation in Libya also brought the U.S. African Command into the spotlight. The fairly new command mainly focused on smart power and public diplomacy, working closely with the State Department. Now, it had to face its first military operation, “setting aside public diplomacy talks and other civilian-military duties to led the initial phase of a complex, multinational shooting war with Libya.”
Nonetheless, soft power and public diplomacy were not abandoned when the decision on a no-fly zone and international intervention fell through. On the contrary – international public diplomacy efforts began to focus more strongly on supporting the rebels and the weakening of Gadhafi’s power. The use of new technology as a means of defeating the regime became a widely discussed theme. As the BBC reported, Internet traffic in Libya had “dropped to almost nothing in early March when Colonel Gadhafi's government pulled the plug in an attempt to suppress dissent”.
The U.S. efforts to connect Libyan citizens to the Internet by providing cell phone access, exemplifies the use of technology to empower the people “so that they can acquire and disseminate accurate information, freedom of speech, ability to organize,” noted Matt Armstrong.
The success or failure of the intervention was recognized as crucial, not only for Libya, but for the entire region. “If Western and Arab governments actually manage to work together to help bring some measure of peace and freedom to Libya, might it create a powerful and positive new model for the Middle East?”, wrote Tom Madigan in the National Journal.
Efforts to secure peace and democracy in Libya after the defeat of Gadhafi’s forces were launched as early as March. At a London meeting on March 29 hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron a broad “contact group” was developed comprising representatives from 15 nations including the Arab League, United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the United States and Islamic authorities. The group demonstrated “the soft power side of the international operation” and sought to “provide a focal point […] for contact with the Libyan parties”.
The use of soft power continued after the end of military intervention. In September 2011, the first international aid conference was scheduled in Qatar. This was not surprising, since Qatar was one of the most involved countries in financially supporting the rebels. “Not least, Qatar provided invaluable moral support with its exhaustive coverage of the rebels on the Al Jazeera TV network, the emir’s powerful public diplomacy wing.”
Bahrain and New Media
Summarized by Rachel Chan
One of the underreported cases of the Arab Spring, Bahrain erupted in protests in February 2011. The uprising that unfolded was inspired by Tunisia and Egypt and spread through social media, transforming the landscape of a nation where freedom of expression had been reined in by the repressive police force and heavy penalties.
Bahrain carries strategic importance because it shares a special relationship with the West – specifically, it is the Persian Gulf Base for the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Its leader, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, is also regarded as a key ally of the U.S. in the Middle East, especially in the war against terror and the curbing of Iranian influence. Yet, the protests have received scant attention by foreign media – only because the international press were unable to extend or secure visas from the monarchy. The result has been near monopoly for BTV, the country’s state-run media. Like Egypt, it has broadcast scenes of deception to hide the truth of what actually happened in Pearl Square, Bahrain’s symbolic center that has now been demolished. While protestors urged mainly for economic provisions and a constitutional monarchy, BTV has focused on the deep-seated tensions between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims as the driving force of the protests. Leigh writes that this has served as “a symbol of the Sunni regime's ongoing propaganda campaign against Shi'ites, the 70 percent majority they claim are responsible for the entirety of the political and economic unrest that has swept this country since…the early hours of February 14”.
There are implications too for Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatar monarchy, and for all of the network’s strength in covering the Egyptian revolution, it has remained largely silent on Qatar’s northern neighbor Bahrain. A reason for its reticence stems from its royal patronage by the emir of Qatar which has brought about the need to avoid inflaming tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the latter having a vested interest in Bahrain. By staying “conspicuously silent on the repression”, it has allowed the free and unchallenged run of state propaganda over the airwaves of Bahrain. The sensitive bilateral relations imply that Al Jazeera’s effects in broadcasting the revolution across the Middle East may be limited and temporary if state pressures gain the upper hand, arm-twisting the network to gloss over sensitive issues in order to protect Qatar from its larger and more powerful neighbors.
The U.S. response to Bahrain has likewise been muted. In voicing support for pro-democracy movements in countries like Syria and Libya, Obama has been criticized for changing his tone when it came to Bahrain at his address to the United Nations in September 2011. Fisher aptly sums this up, writing that “his words sounded more like those of so many U.S. presidential foreign policy addresses of before the Arab Spring: we support our ally, call on him to lead reform, but would rather not discuss his autocratic rule or use of violence against protesters”. Fisher argues further that this speech was defined by “more muted choice of adjectives, oblique non-reference to the brutal crackdown and entrenching autocracy, even his use of passive voice all echo the older style of U.S. rhetoric on reform in the Middle East”. Attempts to explain this have run the gamut from Obama preferring a “behind the scenes” negotiated settlement to the U.S. never really changing its policy of backing pro-American dictators to Bahrain’s relative insignificance in the grand scale of international relations. As Fisher postulates, “the "soft power" dividends of pushing Bahrain to reform, the U.S. may have decided, just aren't there”.
Throughout all this, however, what emerges is that the United States is not keen to damage its close ties with Bahrain. Together with the dearth of coverage on the uprisings by foreign media, the voices of activists and ordinary citizens are very much going unheard.
Instability in Syria
Summarized by Alex Laverty
Discussion of unrest in the Arab world focused on speculations about Syria as early as January 2011. An interview that The Wall Street Journal conducted with President Bashar al-Assad, gives an informative look at the state of mind of the Syrian government in the midst of the Arab Spring. The speed at which the media turned its attention to Syria shows that even in the early days of the Arab Spring, there were reports of the Twitter and Facebook campaigns that were calling for a ‘day of rage’ based on the demonstrations on January 25 in Egypt, despite the fact that Facebook was temporarily blocked in the country.
The first story in PDiN that covered Syria in the regional context appeared in The Christian Science Monitor which referenced the ‘winds of change’ terminology that former UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan first used in his 1960 speech to the South African Parliament. This reference equated the independence and liberation movements of Sub-Saharan Africa to the unrest caused by the Arab Spring in 2011. In a surprise move, the Syrian government lifted the ban on Facebook and other Internet sites, with some commentators speculating that the lifting of restrictions was an attempt to not be seen in the same light as other repressive regimes in the region, despite its reputation as one of the most politically restrictive. American public diplomacy was served with a challenge when Assad made a speech that was anticipated to contain references to reform, but instead put security and stability as the primary needs of the country. This gave the impression that forceful crackdowns on reformers were in the pipeline.
Three public diplomacy themes emerged from the crisis in Syria, each providing insight into the challenges and tools of 21st century statecraft. The first theme highlighted the growing influence of the Syrian crisis, as well as the consequences the events on the ground had on engagement with the Assad regime. Second, there was an increasing spotlight on Turkey’s response to the pro-democracy protestors. While Turkey had been engaged with many of the Arab Spring uprisings, the proximity of Syria added a different dynamic to Turkey’s soft power approach to mediation. Finally, the use of social media by U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was the third theme. His engagement came as a response to the critics of the U.S. administration who began to draw contrasts between its military response to Libya and the lack of a clear U.S. message in regard to protests in Syria.
Consequences of the Syrian uprising and the government’s brutal crackdown have included the canceling of culture exchanges in the form of film festivals, the rescinding of an invitation to the royal wedding, and serious ramifications for Iran’s soft power in the region. Iran tried to protect their Syrian allies by contrasting the uprising in Syria with those protests in countries where previous rulers had been “stooges of the USA”. Syria also brought up the policy debate over sanctions with some policymakers calling for ‘smart sanctions’ as a tool of foreign policy, while others suggested that the history of sanctions juxtaposed with intervention showed that sanctions were not necessarily the most effective tool.
Turkey’s engagement with Syria became a matter of national interest when refugees from the violence stricken nation began to pour into Turkey. The stability of Syria thus became a pressing issue for Turkish leaders in a way that other Arab Spring uprisings had not. The need for Turkey to seize the opportunity to increase its soft power while traditional hegemon Egypt was rebuilding was also noted as a reason for Ankara to take action.
While U.S. public diplomacy engagement with Syria had been underway before the outbreak of major violence in the form of a cross-cultural youth collaboration on a comic book superhero, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began to voice her concerns beginning mid-2011. She said that the meeting of opposition figures in June was an insufficient response to the demands of the demonstrators. However, the U.S. administration did not call for the departure of Assad, and this brought criticisms of the use of American ‘smart power’. The lack of functioning public diplomacy programs in the region meant that Clinton and Obama had to be the primary vehicles of U.S. public diplomacy. The fact that the administration was seen to be adapting its stance based on changing situations on the ground rather than sticking to their democratic ideals was viewed as a disappointing failure to communicate a consistent message from the United States.
Eventually, the American engagement with the Syrian people came through the medium of choice for 21st century youths of the world: social networks. The U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford was originally a controversial recess appointment but his actions soon brought acclaim from Congressional leadership for his role. His use of social media did not endear Ford to Syrian officials, nor did his personal visits to opposition members outside of Damascus. Ford’s criticism of the Assad government mounted as reports of abuses rose. Ford’s public diplomacy work came to an end when credible threats to his safety were made that caused his departure from the country in late October 2011, just as the U.S. embassy staff had posted links on Facebook to stories that implied the Syrian government was violating human rights against anti-government protestors. Much like the other countries touched by the Arab Spring, Syria’s future remains uncertain, but it is clear that the region will never be quite the same again.
Arab Spring Media Coverage
Poll: Arab Youth Feel Alienated From Politics
The majority of youth from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen - countries that went through a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that began in December 2010 - feel disenfranchised from the political process in their country, a poll conducted by Al Jazeera Studies Centre has revealed. The study, published on Monday, also found that most of the 8,045 of women and men aged 17 to 31 surveyed from the four so-called "Arab Spring" nations, did not believe that their recently elected parliaments represented them.
How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter
Social media has been often touted for the role it played in the popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world since December 2010. Despite the buzz, you may be surprised that only 0.26% of the Egyptian population, 0.1% of the Tunisian population and 0.04% of the Syrian population are active on Twitter.
State Department seeks “special fund” for Arab Spring
"The administration is proposing to trim assistance to Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia in order to bolster spending in areas given higher priority by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Middle East would gain, with the creation of a special $770 million fund to support political and economic reform in the aftermath of the Arab Spring."
Egypt’s changes are taking a toll on US public opinion
A year after the demonstrations, what has not changed are Egyptians' views of the US. Only 5 per cent held a favourable view of the US, pointing to American bias towards Israel and meddling in Arab affairs as the main reasons for their negative views, with 89 per cent saying that US policies do not "contribute to peace and stability in the Arab World".
Effort to Rebrand Arab Spring Backfires in Iran
The New York Times
More than a thousand young activists were flown here earlier this week for a conference on “the Islamic Awakening,” Tehran’s effort to rebrand the popular Arab uprisings of the past year. But there was a catch. No one was invited from Syria...That inconvenient truth soon marred the whole script.
#january25 One Year Later: Social Media & Politics 3.0
While Twitter and other social media had become a megaphone disseminating information about the uprisings to the outside world, Marks said, "a comprehensive study of Tweets about the Egyptian and Libyan uprisings" found that more than 75 percent of people who clicked on embedded Twitter links related to the uprisings were from outside the Arab world.
The Egyptian revolution: A year later
The Huffington Post
Social media users can easily mobilize demonstrations of millions in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt. However, to see the real prospects for political and economic reforms, we must examine the nature of the grass-root movement, the core issues that the newly-emerging governments face and the choices they are likely to make.
U.S. Public Diplomacy and the Arab Islamists
Huffington Post (Blog)
Now that the events of 2011 have turned Arab politics upside down, U.S. policymakers are facing what they hate most: irrelevance. Those who were so long ignored by American public diplomacy are finally gaining power as evidenced by the successes of the Ennahda Party in Tunisia...
Arab Spring, Version 2.0
The Huffington Post
While Twitter and Facebook gave rise to the Arab Spring, websites like "Egypt Votes" offered valuable opportunities for open communication by ordinary citizens with untold millions of Egyptians, worldwide, holding the greatest promise for ushering the Middle East to a period of true and lasting democracy.
The Egyptian revolution dominated Twitter this year
Foreign Policy Passport
Egypt's dominance is emblematic of the important role hashtags played in organizing real-time updates and reaction to big news events this year. Egypt had "a far more mature and extensive social media environment" before its uprising than Tunisia did before its revolution, and the Egyptian protests went on to forge microblogging celebrities.
Egypt’s Elections: Owning the Revolution
The Huffington Post
Media and technology have played a powerful role in mobilizing protesters and exposing authoritarian rulers and regimes. Political consciousness and solidarity have given shape and strength to civil societies, making it increasingly difficult for recalcitrant establishments to go unchallenged.
Egypt’s elections can’t be trusted
The Egyptian people, who at times since January have seemed apathetic about the future of the revolution, have shown their determination to reclaim it. The people dying on Egypt's streets are fighting for the true conditions of a just society. Elections, which in Egypt always can be manipulated, cannot be trusted to deliver that goal.
The Big Think Behind the Arab Spring
Egypt's Kefaya ("Enough" in Arabic) movement was in many ways the forefather of the Arab uprising. It pioneered the use of social media, mastered the art of symbolic demonstrations, and pried open a space in the Egyptian media. This opening of closed regimes to raw information and opinion, a faith in the power of public ideas, was itself one of the key ideas underpinning the Arab uprisings.
The Arab Spring: A New Era in a Transforming Globe
The Huffington Post
The technological and informational revolutions that have spurred (and continue to spur) globalization and interconnectedness between cultures make it impossible for tyrants to rule for the entirety of their lifetimes while mercilessly subjugating their peoples to lives of servitude with no prospect of ever tasting the true meaning of freedom.
Egypt’s Tourism Suffers as Its Revolution Stalls
The New York Times
Tourism, a buttress of the economy upon which an estimated 15 million people depend, remains in a tailspin. Desperate to reverse the trend, the tourism authority even test-marketed the uprising.
Remarks on Internet Freedom and Responsibility
U.S. Department of State
Almost every day, we see new examples of the power of connection technologies...The Arab spring brought home the power of the Internet to governments far beyond the Middle East, and the result has been more censorship, more surveillance and more restrictions...the Internet space – which has seemed so open and free – could become less so.
Mahatma Gandhi’s bust unveiled in Cairo
A bronze bust of Mahatma Gandhi, gifted to the people of Egypt by India in recognition of their peaceful pro-democracy revolution, has been unveiled in Cairo to mark the fifth international day of non-violence.
U.S. State Department Takes On Syria… Via Facebook
Robert Ford, the American ambassador to Syria, slipped out of the country on Sunday after credible threats were made against him. Ford and the Damascus embassy staff have been posting extensive content criticizing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to Facebook and offering public sympathy for Syrian rebels.
The first Arab Bloggers Meeting was private and low key. Not this year’s
New spheres of expression, long closed and forbidden to us, are now open. Reclaiming, defending and efficiently utilising these spaces to debate and promote our visions of the new Arab world will be our most immediate task.
Journalism and a world in transition: Wadah Khanfar’s James Cameron memorial lecture
The communication and information technological revolution has provided unprecedented global plurality. The journalism of depth is one that considers the people to be the centre of its editorial policy; it seeks to give the masses a voice and a platform. It should be courageous and be prepared to withstand so much pressure by disaffected centres of power.
China’s Arab Spring Cyber Lessons
Throughout the Middle East, protestors have employed Facebook, Twitter...and other technologies to organize and spread news at home and to the outside world. Democratic governments aren’t the only ones reacting to the Arab Spring. Autocracies, including China, which hosts the world’s most sophisticated online control regime, are drawing their own lessons.
For Egypt’s Graffiti Artists, Revolution Brings Inspiration and Uncertainty
From the very beginning of the revolution, street art and artists played a significant role in the protests...perhaps the uncensored, tongue-in-cheek, political commentary of Ganzeer and other street artists is just what is called for to help Egyptians make sense of the new world they live in — and their ability to make a mark on it.
Sean Penn joins protesters in Egypt
Sean Penn was among the demonstrators at a protest in Egypt on Friday calling for a faster transition to democracy. The two-time Oscar winner arrived in north Africa at the invitation of Egyptian film star Khaled El Nabawy as part of efforts to show the country is once again safe for tourists following the revolution earlier this year.
Iran’s growing bluster spells danger
Los Angeles Times
The Arab Spring has diminished Iran's ability to wield soft power in the region. Instead, the momentum has shifted to Turkey, which has not been shy about stealing pages from the Iranian playbook for appealing to the Arab street.
Erdoğan means business
In addition, Turkey has stepped up its use of soft power by attempting to influence the political processes of nations that have recently undergone “Arab Spring” revolutions, namely Tunisia and Egypt.
Erdogan Means Business
Turkey has stepped up its use of soft power by attempting to influence the political processes of nations which have recently undergone “Arab Spring” revolutions, namely Tunisia and Egypt...Erdogan has found a window of opportunity in the Arab Spring to restore Turkey to regional hegemony at a time when it only serves to help his party's standing at home.
Why the Arab Spring was the best and worst thing to happen to Al Jazeera
In many ways, Al Jazeera is a victim of its own success. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring...Al Jazeera played a vital role in spreading news about the uprisings throughout the region. Once the revolutions started, the network featured more than just traditional newsgathering...made a point of aggregating social media content...to its TV viewers.
The Case for Sanctions in Syria – Lessons from Africa
The African File
Sanctions are a hard form of economic power that Joseph Nye discusses in chapter three of his new book, The Future of Power, and a topic that is discussed widely today in relation to Syria. Many policy makers are pondering whether sanctions will be useful in convincing President al-Assad to stop killing his people.
Social Media and the Arab Spring: What Have We Learned?
The Huffington Post
The challenges posed by the new media landscape...will likely take years to fully comprehend. But as the contours of the role of social media in the Arab Spring and elsewhere begin to take shape in the academic and policy-making arenas, everyone seems to agree on one point: The revolution is far from over.
What Wikileaks Tells Us About Al Jazeera
Syrians have accused Al Jazeera of seeking to foment unrest in the country, and at least one media outlet even accused the Qatar-based broadcaster of setting up film studios to stage some of the uprising. It comes as no surprise, then, that some might seize on the latest leaked cables as a way to discredit the news organization as simply being a mouthpiece for the U.S. government.
Egypt, Libya, Revolutions, Oh My!
In order to prevent further deterioration of the United States’ relationships in the Middle East, it should conduct more public diplomacy in Egypt in order to maintain a civil relationship in the long term...Egyptian public opinion of the U.S. must change before the revolution ends, and the likelihood of a radical coming to power increases.
9/11 anniversary: al-Qaeda releases new video applauding Arab Spring
The video was released as many analysts believe the terror network is struggling to cope with the loss of a string of leaders and has found its jihadist message undermined by popular protests against authoritarian regimes which have swept the Middle East.
The Little Emirate That Could
As one of the first countries to recognize the National Transitional Council...Qatar provided invaluable moral support with its exhaustive coverage of the rebels on the Al Jazeera TV network, the emir’s powerful public diplomacy wing. While the Arab Spring has overturned the Middle East status quo...money, diplomacy, and cunning have already helped establish Qatar as a rising regional power.
Over the past two years, Ross, 39, has been incorporating those digital platforms into the daily lives of U.S. diplomats. Dozens of U.S. ambassadors around the world now use Facebook and Twitter, and the State Department boasts nine foreign-language Twitter accounts. These technologies, Ross argues, give the U.S. a new suite of tools for exerting "smart power" to advance its interests.
In Unsettled Times, Media Can Be a Call to Action, or a Distraction
The New York Times
THE mass media, including interactive social-networking tools, make you passive, can sap your initiative, leave you content to watch the spectacle of life from your couch or smartphone. Apparently even during a revolution. That is the provocative thesis of a new paper by Navid Hassanpour, a political science graduate student at Yale, titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.”
Young leaders from Egypt and Tunisia unite in London
Young adults helping to shape the future of the Middle East and North Africa will meet the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, at an event in London organised by the British Council. Their trip to the UK is part of the British Council’s work with young people around the world, and will help to inform the international response to the changing political landscape in the region.
Waves of Disinformation and Confusion Swamp the Truth in Libya
The New York Times
Information, or rather truthful information, is often difficult to come by in any war zone. Disinformation is a powerful tool that can be used to mislead the enemy, hide tactics, instigate fear or win public support. There is also the fog of war, the confusion in communications and the chaos of the battlefield that can obscure any objective understanding.
Clegg trumpets soft power in Arab Spring
The best way to diffuse a sense of injustice for those people involved in the Arab Spring is through improving material circumstances, London said. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in a speech before delegates at the British Council in London said the British government has committed more than $180 million during the next four years to development in the Arab world.
Visiting Russia, Kim Jong-il casts nervous eye on Tripoli
The Christian Science Monitor
Although the North Korean media shield most of the country’s 24 milliion people from news about the Middle East, word of rebellion seeps through via clandestine radios and word of mouth from people on illicit trading expeditions. It’s because of the fear of revolutionary fervor spreading tthat Kim is anxious to convince Russian leaders that his third son, Kim Jong-eun, is strong enough to be able to rule.
Israel to Egypt: Sorry, We’re Really, Really Sorry
In the wake of any terrorist attack, Israeli governments struggle to maintain their footing, but after the Arab Spring, everything got more dramatic. The crisis began Aug. 18, with a multilayered, sustained terrorist attack along Israel's border with Egypt. Alarmed, the Israeli Defense Ministry took the unusual step of breaking the Jewish Sabbath to issue a statement of regret for the Egyptian deaths.
Libya inspires the Arabs
The scenes of the joyous reception for Libyan "Freedom Fighters" entering Tripoli with little resistance yesterday sent an electric shock through the Arab public...I don't see how anybody watching al-Jazeera, following Arab social media networks, or talking to people in the region could fail to appreciate the interconnected nature of Arab struggles
Libya can now reimagine itself
The Christian Science Monitor
As the pro-democracy rebels expand their control over Tripoli, they will need to forge a new Libyan identity – one not based on the empty nationalism of Pan-Arabism, common geography, shared history, or even Islam. No, to avoid this North African nation splintering along tribal lines or to prevent another dictator, Libyans must reimagine themselves as citizens.
Libya starts to reconnect to internet
Libya's internet connections appear to be slowly coming back online after a six-month blackout...it appeared that Libyans were making use of their newly restored connectivity - when available - to chronicle fast-moving events inside the country. Groups such as the Libya Youth Movement posted Twitter messages giving regular updates on attempts to capture Colonel Gaddafi's compound.
UK and BART Officials: Don’t Shoot the Messaging Services
The Huffington Post
The servers that house Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger don't have a political, social or legal agenda. Their job is simply to transmit what people post and deliver it to people who want to see it. But the same technologies can also be used to espouse unpopular causes or even rally people to anti-social, illegal or destructive acts.
Arab Spring, Chinese Winter
Something big is happening in China, and it started soon after the onset of the “Arab Spring” demonstrations and regime changes: the most serious and widespread wave of repression since the Tiananmen Square crackdowns 22 years ago. The spread of protest from one Arab-Islamic country to its neighbors might have seemed predictable. Less so was the effect in China.
Regional press condemn ‘Arab silence’ on Syria
As Syrian forces reportedly begin a third day of their assault on the port of Latakia, newspapers in the region have expressed anger about Arab states' failure to respond to events in that country. Several commentators strongly criticise the "shameful Arab silence" towards the Syrian authorities, with one saying that it amounts to handing over the country to "anarchy."
Al Jazeera Changes Plan to Rerun Documentary
The New York Times
Al Jazeera English has squashed several planned rebroadcasts of “Shouting in the Dark,” an hourlong documentary about Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that abrought complaints from Bahraini authorities. The episode illustrates the thorny issue of independence for Al Jazeera, which is financed by the emir of Qatar and is perceived by some people to be a diplomatic tool of the country.
The Arab Spring Introduces Turkey to the World of Foreign Policy Double Standards
Center for American Progress
While Ankara has political influence in Syria, soft power has little sway when Bashir al-Assad’s survival is at stake. Yet as long as Turkey remains committed to a noninterventionist approach, it can offer little more than diplomatic efforts and attempts at persuasion.
Netanyahu’s popularity reels as Israel protests take root
What started as two unrelated social actions over a month ago — a Facebook campaign against inflated cottage cheese prices (an Israeli staple) and a doctors’ strike — has blossomed into a nationwide, multipronged collective revolt unprecedented in recent Israeli history. The Arab Spring, it appears, is turning into a hot, hot Israeli summer.
The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
Twitter has become the essential tool for following and understanding the momentous changes sweeping the Arab region. It's surprisingly smart and fast -- if sometimes a little too quick on the draw -- and human where other sources feel impersonal. If there is indeed such a thing as a Twitter revolution in the Middle East, it's the way the tool is transforming how the outside world looks at the region.
Bahrain and the True Face of US Foreign Policy
The Huffington Post
The mainstream western media has willfully ignored the continued abuses in Bahrain, and al Jazeera...has also been conspicuously silent...Fortunately, courageous activists on the ground have linked up with concerned citizens from around the world to create awareness for ordinary people removed by thousands of miles and blinded by the smokescreen of media obfuscation.
Rhetoric vs. Action in American Diplomacy
The Huffington Post
The Arab Spring encapsulates the failure of public diplomacy whose actions do not speak louder than words. The series of popular uprisings apparently partially resulted from the WikiLeaks exposure of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and stung the US twice -- once for supporting these autocrats, and again for failing to move quickly and decisively, choosing to remain on the sidelines.
Revolutions relayed by the minute – how Egyptians kept connected
The Guardian's overage became a crucial source of information for Egyptians themselves once the internet was switched back on. With local media sites often paralysed by the unrest, Guardian articles and the rolling live blog – much of which was translated into Arabic – provided vital detail about the latest political developments...in Tahrir and elsewhere.
Egypt’s youth continue their fight on the airwaves
TV 25 is one of 16 new channels launched since Mubarak's fall. Several new radio stations and newspapers have also taken advantage of the eased security restrictions governing new media licenses.TV 25 reports live out of Tahrir Square daily, often taking viewers inside protesters' tents. Social media — which many credit for helping to launch Egypt's revolution - is a major part of their programming.
Springtime for Twitter
Dictators are toppling across the Arab world. What role has the Internet played in their demise? Young people went online to keep up with their friends and youth culture. In doing so, they became politicized. In Egypt, people shared a yearning to oust Hosni Mubarak, but each person was afraid to step forward. Once they saw how many other Egyptians agreed with them, they grew bolder.
Egypt: Tahrir Square looks like February all over again
Los Angeles Times
Cairo’s Tahrir Square is beginning to look and feel like it did last winter when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested, camped and fought for 18 days to topple President Hosni Mubarak. Activists have returned to the now-fabled square with banners and anthems in hopes of reigniting the passions of a revolution that stunned the Arab world.
Syrian Rappers Urge ... Restraint? Protesters Find Little Support in Popular Music
While rap has provided the gritty sound track to popular uprisings roiling some of the Middle East's most entrenched dictatorships, in Syria it has largely supported the status quo. That picture is one the Syrian government is keen to portray: that protesters who have taken to the streets...have either been duped or are active participants in a foreign conspiracy aimed at punishing Syria for its politics.
Art captures the rush of Egypt’s revolution
From graffiti to YouTube videos, the Shubbak festival brings the energy and unpredictability of the Arab spring to London. Shubbak is an opportunity to sample the energy and unpredictability of one of the most dramatic moments in Arab history. The artworks here capture the rush and openness of Egypt now, the sense of possibility and an unfinished story.
Syria’s opposition meeting was a PR exercise
The fact that the Syrian authorities have given the green light for leading opposition figures to meet openly may be unprecedented, but it is not the sign of progress that many might hope for...the conference appears to be nothing more than part of a public relations exercise by a regime that is intent on showing the world it is serious about reform, but without actually being serious.
Arabic World Service gets U.K. government funding
The funding, provided over the next three years, is a response to the Arab Spring — the pro-democracy movements that have arisen in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and other Arabic countries.
Study: Social Media Saves Lives in the Middle East
The Christian Post
Social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Diggit, live video, texting, bloggers, websites, My Space, and other outlets, now focus on the power of mass protests to rally together to topple governments and spread messages to fellow countrymen, and ultimately tell their story to the rest of the world.
Foreign policy challenges after AKP’s victory
It was the dismal failure of Egyptian leadership in the region that was at the heart of the Arab predicament and the deep admiration of Turkey’s growing soft power. With the Arab Spring and particularly Egypt’s revolution, Cairo is now slowly re-emerging as the most likely candidate to fill the vacuum of strategic leadership in the Arab world.
Minister: Iran Keen to Expand Cultural Ties with Egypt
Fars News Agency
Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyed Mohammad Hosseini voiced Tehran and Cairo's willingness to strengthen bilateral ties, specially in area of culture. On May 30, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi voiced confidence about the improvement of relations between Iran and Egypt, but meantime said that resuming ties between the two Muslim states needs time and patience.
Turkey’s new challenges
The Boston Globe
Sunday's election in Turkey was another reminder of the country’s astonishing rise, which has been one of the most dramatic geopolitical stories of the last decade. Turkey has become not just a safe haven, but a model for what many Arabs would like to see their countries become. Finding a way to stabilize the ever-more-turbulent Middle East is Turkey’s most urgent task.
The region’s first truly Pan-Arab social network?
With a predominantly English speaking subscriber base, it has been hard to view Facebook’s demographics as representative of the Arab consumer. At the same time, no homegrown social network has been successful in appealing to Arabic language Internet users in numbers and the region’s Arabic language social media environment has remained a fragmented one. This is now changing: fast.
The press and the Arab spring: Six reasons for failure
The Palestine Telegraph
Most people in the West were stunned and amazed at the revolts which spread across the Arab World that started in Tunisia in January. Yet the reality was all the ingredients for such uprisings were present and well known...It begs the question as to why the media were part of a collective failure: how come there was no sense in the press of this impending tempest...?
Views of Middle East Unchanged by Recent Events
Pew Research Center
Major events in the Middle East –including tensions between the U.S. and Israel, growing political unrest in many Arab countries, and the death of Osama bin Laden – have had little effect on public attitudes toward the region.
When Fear Breaks
The New York Times
A transnational world is emerging through social media. Corporations are global. Supply chains are global. The conversation is global. The world is integrated as never before. Yet states guard their sovereignty with a strange ferocity.
Bahrain’s unseen protests fall on deaf ears
Real Clear World
The government says the country, which serves as the base for the United States Fifth Fleet, and was to have held a Formula One motor race which had to be postponed in March when the protests were at their peak, is back to business as usual.Shi'ite residents say that if this is the new normal, tense days lie ahead.
The Jewish power-providers of the Arab Spring revolts
The Jerusalem Post
Most accounts from rights activists as well as journalists on the scene and sociologists analyzing the situation clearly show that Facebook had an enormous influence on the start and spread of the uprisings, as well as their apparent domino effect. It served a primary means of communication.
Syrian blogger Amina Abdallah kidnapped by armed men
A blogger whose frank and witty thoughts on Syria's uprising, politics and being a lesbian in the country shot her to prominence was last night seized by armed men in Damascus. Several Facebook pages had been set up on Monday evening calling for her release...and activists were tweeting using the hashtag FreeAmina.
Iran sees threat to its clout amid Arab Spring
The Christian Science Monitor
As Arab uprisings sweep the Middle East, few images will likely unsettle Iran's leadership more than that of their flag being burned by Syrian protesters angry with the Islamic Republic's deep ties with Syria's dynastic regime.
On Turkey’s coast, opponents of Syrian government seek to overcome differences
The Washington Post
Opponents of the Syrian regime gathered on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast on Tuesday for a conference aimed at overcoming their differences and bolstering protesters who have endured a bloody crackdown under President Bashar Assad. The meeting has drawn Syrian exiles living in the West and the Middle East, as well as some activists from inside Syria.
Arab nations: New governments, same story
...how is this new world to be built? The guiding model is to be found in Eastern Europe and the colour revolutions. In short, by using American soft power and public diplomacy to reshape the socio-political scene in the region, the aim is to transform the people's revolutions into America's revolutions.
You can’t make everyone happy
Why did Mr Obama risk stirring such bad blood between his administration and Israel’s, to no apparent diplomatic gain and at a time when the pro-Israeli lobby in America, already in pre-election mode, still wields so much clout?
Obama, hands off our spring
What had been a challenge to US power is now a "historic opportunity", as Barack Obama put it in his Middle East speech last week. But he does not mean an opportunity for the people who have risen up; it is a chance for Washington to fashion the region's present and future, just as it did its past.
Google executive says social networking was vital in Egyptian revolt
Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who became a public voice in the Egyptian uprising, said that social networking played a vital role in the rebellion and will continue to do so in many other regions throughout the world.
Netanyahu’s speech sets high bar for resumption of peace talks
The Washington Post
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Palestinians back to the bargaining table Tuesday with a U.S. speech that promised “painful” Israeli concessions in exchange for peace but also outlined a tough negotiating stance that was immediately rejected by key Palestinian officials.
Obama stresses urgency of peace talks in speech to pro-Israel group
Los Angeles Times
President Obama reassured a powerful pro-Israel group that America's support for the Jewish state's security is "ironclad" but insisted on a sense of urgency about reviving peace talks that he said would require both Israelis and Palestinians to make "hard choices."
Upheaval in the Middle East: An Opportunity for Turkey
Foreign Policy Journal
A multitude of visa-free travel agreements has resulted in enhanced Turkish influence at a societal level, with Turkish pop music and television now widely transmitted throughout the Middle East. Turkey has embraced its neighbours, and they have responded in kind, resulting in growing Turkish influence in Middle Eastern affairs.
Obama speech: Mid-East reaction
US President Barack Obama says the US has opened a "new chapter" in diplomacy after the Arab Spring uprisings People in countries across the Middle East have been giving the BBC their reactions to his speech.
Putting America on Democracy’s Side
The Daily Beast (blog)
Still Obama allied America with those Arabs and Iranians thirsting for freedom, and he did so in a subtle but remarkable way. He invoked, as he so often does, the civil-rights movement. Not World War II, where American power served the cause of freedom.
Arab image in Turkey
Then why do media in Turkey have similar problems to those in the West when it comes to the perception of Arabs, even though the country is predominantly Muslim? Again poor knowledge and a lack of information would be the immediate answer.
Qudhafi Losing Ground in Battle for Media Dominance
The Layalina Review
Qadhafi “blames the international media, activists, and journalists for the uprising and holds them responsible if the uprising continues to increase,” and particularly recognizes the Internet’s role in organizing the initial demonstrations on February 15th.
US president to announce US policy on Syria in “major” address
"If there was ever a time to move things along, this is it," said Philip Seib, the director of the Centre on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California. "Obama must make clear, publicly and privately, that Israel must move forward now."
Arab Spring Fails to Improve U.S. Image
Pew Global Attitudes Project
With the exception of Indonesia, Obama remains unpopular in the Muslim nations polled, and most disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change roiling the Middle East. Moreover, many of the concerns that have driven animosity toward the U.S. in recent years are still present...
The Struggle for Middle East Democracy
The Cairo Review
The Tunisian and Egyptian regimes fell faster than anyone could have expected. But it also took longer than anyone should have imagined. Where opposition groups in Eastern Europe came to count on Western support, in the Arab world, they often found themselves standing alone.
Social Media’s Sticky Role In Anti-Israel Uprisings
After a page calling for a mass march by Palestinians on the borders of Israel on May 15 was taken offline by Facebook, mirror sites with more than 3.5 million followers sprung up... Will the so-called "Facebook Intifada" tip the Middle East into further turmoil?
Activists decry U.S. silence on Bahrain’s crackdown
The Modesto Bee
Human rights activists at a congressional hearing Friday implored the Obama administration to publicly and forcefully denounce Bahrain's violent and abusive crackdown against anti-government protesters.
Obama Tries Again In the Arab World
Take a look at Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo.... The beautiful words were seen to have been built on air, not on a foundation of policy. Arabs are a tough audience. They’ve heard it all before: blueprints, roadmaps, promises about this and that. And yet nothing ever seemed to change…until they took matters into their own hands.
Middle East in Flux
“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies…when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy” in light of the U.S. record of blocking democracy in the region.
The Arab Spring Threatens Al Qaeda
Center for American Progress
There is no question that Osama bin Laden’s death is a significant milestone in the U.S. fight against Al Qaeda. But the youth-led uprisings in the Middle East ultimately pose a greater threat to Al Qaeda than bin Laden’s death. It is therefore critical that the United States maintain support for the revolutions’ call for political and economic reforms as they continue to unfold.
Bin Laden and the Arab Spring: A Turning Point in U.S.-Muslim World Relations?
The Huffington Post (Blog)
The death of Osama bin Laden like the Arab Spring signals a possible turning point in the Arab and Muslim world and an opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Muslim world relations. The killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad is a major psychological blow to al Qaeda, who lost a charismatic leader, and global terrorists for whom he symbolized their militant jihad.
Eric Adler: Social media quickly alter diplomacy
The Gulf Today
In Egypt and Tunisia, Facebook helped foment democratic uprising. But on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, US soldiers are now, with increasing frequency, turning to social media for an equally pressing purpose: To save their lives.
Turkey’s neighborhood troubles
The Los Angeles Times
At Erdogan's initiative, Syria and Turkey in 2009 abolished visas for their citizens traveling between the countries, held joint cabinet meetings and conducted small-scale military exercises. Turkish exports to Syria are booming. This type of integration has been the cornerstone of Turkey's much-heralded "zero problems with neighbors" policy.
Amid Arab Uprisings, Bin Laden No Longer the Model
"It was the soft power of Ghoneim and his associates, not bin Laden's crude power, that led to regime change" in Egypt says Khalil el-Anani, referring to the former Google executive who became the face of the youth-driven protests in January.
Egypt’s PM to visit Ethiopia this month
Ambassador Mahmoud Dirir, who led the 48 member Egyptian public diplomacy delegation to Ethiopia, told WIC that Dr. Essam Sharaf, premier of Egypt, is scheduled to meet with Ethiopian counterparts to discuss relations between the two countries.
Can the Arab awakening be a positive black swan for Turkey?
The fire of the Arab awakening is now catching up with the Syrian youth. The streets of Arab countries, following a long period of oppression, are continuing to vent their anger until they attain freedom or the cold kiss of death.
Iran, Cuba critical of U.S. double standard policy
Mehmanparast said the West has taken contradictory approaches toward popular uprisings the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Libya and Bahrain, Tehran Times correspondent reported from Havana.
Tehran squirms as crackdown by ally Syria creates global uproar
The Los Angeles Times
But as the turbulence in Syria and international outrage over the hundreds killed gain momentum, many Iranian diplomats, pundits and academics can evade the question no longer. In an interview on Iran's Arabic-language Alam TV on Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast... vaguely and tactfully stated that Iran respected the sovereignty of other countries.