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Uprising in the Middle East and the Role of Social Media


English: Middle East Map

English: Middle East Map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Professor Dr.Ahsan Akhtar Naz
Director Institute of Communication Studies
University of the Punjab, New Campus, Lahore

“It is imperative for the students to remain well-acquainted with current affairs as in near future all of them would be a part of media organizations. The uprising in Middle East is a unique event in international politics”.

Mr. Javed Iqbal
Host at Dunya TV

“Dictatorship has always been defined as ‘one man rule’. The recent change in the Middle East was a protest against the verdict of one man”.

Mr.Javed Iqbal expressed the view that credibility of social media is increasing day by day which was evident by the uprising initiated through its help.

Dr. Mansoor Jaffar
News Techniques Instructor

“A change of phase has definitely occurred in the Middle East but it was not followed by the real change which is the need of the hour. As private media was under the control of the state, therefore people dwelling in the Middle East used social media. Interactive social networking websites have gained power which eventually enabled the people to trigger a disciplined protest, moreover, Persian versions of Twitter and Facebook were introduced to facilitate the people”.

Dr. Mansoor told the audience that a journalist is considered as a spy in Arab states, which obstructs the effectiveness of mass media and thus decreases its credibility. He suggested all the students of communication studies whether print, electronic or social media to understand the significance of person-to-person communication.

Mr. Shahid Malik
Working for BBC for the past 25 years

“Media doesn’t modify facts rather it processes them efficiently using their effective gate keeping. ‘Stateless media’ could be counted as ‘social media’ which has the ability to bring about a revolution”.


Dr. Ijaz Butt
Professor of International Relations and Political science
Principal, Government College Township, Lahore

“Monarchical regimes persist for a long time and do not pay heed to public aspirations. Consequently, corruption prevails in such circumstances, fomenting people to get infuriated and call for a change. American hold on the Middle East was directly linked with the vested interest of the USA. On the other hand, Middle Eastern rulers exchange oil for arms and ammunition in order to stabilize their regimes”.

Dr. Ijaz was of the view that social media has helped the people to stay informed and trigger a change but this change was directionless as no one mobilized the masses.

Dr Bushra Hameed ur Rehman
Assistant Professor of Mass Communication
Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab
Lahore

Dr. Bushra.H.Rehman defined social networking as ‘two-way traffic’.

“ ‘Judicial Activism’ in Pakistan was due to the use of social media. Egyptian uprising was a consequence of the mass protest orchestrated by people of action. Whereas, in Pakistan people have a perspective that if they have criticized something inappropriate then they have done their part and nobody is prepared to take an action against it”.

 
 

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Exploring the Images in Arab Blogosphere


Exploring the Images in Arab Blogosphere

By Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 

Introduction and Background:

The word ‘blog’ is a contraction of two words, Weband ‘Log’. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘weblog’ as a frequently updated website consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, typically run by a single person and usually with hyperlinks to other websites. It can also be referred to as an online journal or diary.

Walker.R (2008) defines ‘blogging’ as a cumulative process as the information shared is always placed in a broader context and bloggers have complete control over the content that they want to share unlike other means of communication (print, broadcast). [1]

Brans & Jacobs (2006) while discussing the ‘Uses of Blogs‘ elaborated the concept of ‘News Blogging’ as a “practice of covering the news through blogging- either by reporting originally or by providing opinion on the news that has been reported in the news sources”. [2]

Barlow (2008) explained the working dimension of blogs, he argued that the words on the screens become movers of judgement, all supposedly equal, though there are plenty of means of heightening their exposure. [3]

Pole (2010) discussed the influence of blogging networks (blogosphere) on political communication. As per his argument, blogging has altered political discourse by changing ‘how’ and ‘when’ people discuss politics. He further supports this by explaining the enhanced level of interactivity while blogging that enables dialogue among bloggers and readers leading to an exchange of ideas. The ideas can then be manifested in the form of an ‘action’, ‘policy’ or ‘mobilization’. Therefore, political communication has no boundaries with regards to ‘scope’ and ‘magnitude’ in the blogosphere. [4]

The Arab uprisings and protests starting from 2010 used blogs as an important source for disseminating information that was denied any other outlet (mainstream news media). However, some argue that the role of ‘social networks’ and ‘blogs’ in triggering the waves of protests around Middle East is overstated. Whether less or more, the impact of social media did resonate and there are no differences over this. Downing (2010) marks 2003 as the year during which Arab bloggers/citizen journalists started to gain prominence. However, it was only after 2005 that these bloggers “emerged as important leaders of social movements.” [5]

This is the reason that Murphy (2011) labels blogging as a predominant form of written protest in the Arab world and the Internet as the new “clandestine printing press.” [6]

Arab Blogosphere

Arab Blogosphere

Literature Review:

This is a concise research study which aims at revealing the images in the Arab Blogosphere, pertinent to four key issues of Middle East during 2012:

  1. Morsi as the President of Egypt
  2. Syrian Massacre
  3. Protests against anti-Islam film in the Arab World
  4. Recent conflict between Gaza and Israel

‘Three’ blogs were considered for this research study. The images that reflected the issues mentioned above were studied. ‘Image analysis’ is very significant for analyzing opinions being communicated through the web. 

Image source: Encyclopedia of Social Media Movement by John D.H.Downing (2010)

Image source: Encyclopedia of Social Media Movement by John D.H.Downing (2010)

It becomes all the more significant in the case of ‘blogs’ as readers are hooked by the images accompanying the posts. Sometimes they even get a clue of the entire post by viewing images. In case of the Arab world, there are certain blogs that share images being submitted by natives belonging to different countries in the Arab countries. In this way the blog becomes ‘a portrait of the current happenings’ in the Middle East.

It’s time to take a look at the images in the Arab Blogosphere

References:

[1] Walker. J. Rettberg (2008), Blogging.

[2] Jacobs J. & Brauns A. (2006), Uses of Blogs.

[3] Barlow A. (2008) Blogging America: The New Public Sphere

[4] Pole A. (2010) Blogging the Political: Politics and Participation in a networked society.

[5] Downing. J. D. H (2010) Encyclopedia of Social Media Movements

[6] Murphy. C. Emma (2011) The New Arab Media: Technology, Image, Perception

BLOG URL’s

http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/

http://tabsir.net/

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Research Hub, Slide shows

 

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Democratisation of the Arab World and the ‘US Foreign Policy’


President Barack Hussain Obama accepted nominations for second term during the Democratic Convention of 2012, while settling the crown for a “better U.S” on his head. The speech delivered by his ‘democratic comrade’, Bill Clinton, somehow reinforced the notion that; ‘Obama might be bad, but anyone else can be worse’. Clinton gave what Obama earnestly wanted in order to restore his confidence, especially among the ‘white voters’. As expected, the motif of the convention revolved around a rebuttal of allegations against the incumbent president. However, the first black president of the U.S amplified his ‘foreign policy’ as a successful one. The long ‘to do’ list included the most prominent volition of ‘spending less’ on ‘war’ and ‘investing more’ in ‘nation-building’. A dignified end to war in Afghanistan in near future, getting rid of Osama Bin Laden, putting Al Qaeda on the road that is leading to defeat and the promotion of democratic values was used as a persuasive force to endorse his existing policies. The democratic rhetoric of ‘fairness’, ‘equality of opportunity’, ‘promotion of democracy’, ‘gender equity’, missed out the billows of ‘Arab spring’ (which is an insatiable aspirant of ‘democracy’).

Little had been mentioned about the political transitions burbling in the Arab world. The ‘Arab Spring’ and the myriad ‘liberal protesters’ of Middle East are intertwined with the U.S foreign policy. The initial focal point of Obama’s policy with regards to Middle East was the resolution of ‘Arab-Israel’ conflict. Compared with its predecessor, the Obama administration placed negligible emphasis on promoting democracy abroad. The administration’s priority, instead, was strengthening government-to-government relations, something that Obama administration officials felt had suffered unnecessarily under the Bush administration. The common thread throughout the statements and speeches of Obama and his senior advisers, till 2011, was the target to achieve institutional reform, economic development, and poverty alleviation first, and free and fair elections later. In other words, ‘democracy promotion’ was a secondary motive followed by ‘dignity promotion’. The reasons can be various, from the preservation of the U.S interests in the region to the fear of ‘rapid’, ‘untidy democratisation ‘ of the Arab World. Contrary to the administration’s desired policy, Arab uprisings, pushed it to a position where it had no other choice than to purport the struggles of ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’.

President Obama had to celebrate the triumph of protesters calling for change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. On the other hand, Obama’s move to celebrate along with the pioneers of ‘Arab Spring’ was considered an ‘ominous sign’ by the monarchs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Obama was seen by the Kings as an instigator, who is backing protests around the Arab world. To ensure support of Washington’s allies in the region, people of Bahrain were deprived of their right to become the creators of their destiny. Leaders in some parts of the Middle East weren’t compelled to give up their dictatorial pursuits like Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. The United States tried to reassure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allies that it stood behind them. Obama’s apparent success in Libya was neutralized by the volatile situation in Syria. The chorus which demands for a democratic dispensation in which people’s voice synchronises with that of the rulers is swelling up in the Middle East. This is likely to continue regardless of who wins the next presidential elections in the U.S.

The region yearning for democracy (the belt running from Tunisia through Libya to Egypt) has already established an unprecedented example for the Arab world to follow. The new regime of Jibril in Libya will look towards Tunisia and develop links with the recovered Tunisian economy. Secular-minded liberals will have to adjust with the Islamists in Egypt, which is likely to rise as the most organized example of ‘democratic switch over’. With Muslim Brotherhood leading a compromise with the secular way of life, an appeal of extreme Islamists such as Al – Qaeda will also fade away from the Arab world. Morsi’s idea of ‘United States of Islam’ is a difficult, yet attainable target. Furthermore, upheavals will continue in other parts like Algeria, which won’t be impervious to resentful calls for change. Royals of Jordan and Morocco will be pushed by their subjects to expand the operational premises of politics within their respective regions. The iridescent, oil-rich Gulf will also be swayed by the demand for democracy. United Arab Emirates and Qatar can manage to hold back their people. However, an increased number of young educated Arabs will question their rulers that ‘why democracy is being denied by them at home’, while support is being granted to it in regions like Libya. Saudi Arabia, the giant of the Gulf will also find it difficult to satisfy the impatient and well-informed, mobilized middle class. The only solution to sustain the kingdom will be to bequeath power to a younger generation. Religion-driven conflicts, a characteristic feature of Middle East politics, will also join the bandwagon of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.

Whether Obama or Romney, both of them will have to attend to the inconsistent developments in the political arena of Middle East. The resonance of discord and dissent cannot be bottled for the sake of Republicans or Democrats. A recent study of Global Attitudes by Pew Research Center concluded that; most Muslims want democracy, personal freedoms, and Islam in political life, while few believe that the U.S backs democracy. Support for an institutionalized democracy and a re-orientation of the U.S foreign policy in order to negotiate with the Islamists is pertinent. Democratisation of the Arab world has turned the tables over, now, what Arabs ‘want’ carries more weight as compared to what governments have to ‘do’.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in the October (2012) issue of Jahangir’s World Times.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in International Affairs

 

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