After the Arab Spring: An analysis of the future of journalism in the Middle East

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Report by Pacific Media Centre

Map: Wikipedia

Pacific Media Centre

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Abstract

Journalism in the Middle East has long suffered from the effect of autocratic and corrupt political regimes, which see control of the media as being vital to their continued ability to exert power over their nations. However, following the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings, there has been a marked increase in the number of governments willing to give their press freedom to report, even to the point of criticising the actions of the current government. This has removed one of the most significant factors influencing the quality and objectivity of journalists in the Middle East. However, there are still other significant issues which remain, including the volatile political situation, the subtle influence of political parties or what is referred to as “deep state”, and the level of conflict which exists in the region as a whole. This thesis will examine the extent to which the Arab Spring and other recent developments in the Middle East have influenced journalism in the region. A qualitative approach was selected in order to provide a deeper level of analysis, and fuller conclusions about the direct and indirect influences of the Arab Spring on journalism. The analysis method used was a form of narrative content analysis, obtained through face-to-face interviews with eleven journalists from four Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. External reports from international organisations such as Freedom House, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) were used to judge participants’ commentaries or evidences. Findings show that considerable challenges still remain even after the end of the Arab Spring events. It is clear that the Arab Spring altered the social climate of all of these nations in one way or another, however the positive impact this may have had on press freedom is inconsistent, when comparing all four nations. Political power fluctuations, deep state, absence of government, and civil institutions’ role have contributed to empowering or denying journalism and press freedom in Middle East since the end of the uprisings. Measuring shifts that have occurred in media, as a civil institution after a social revolution, will be a crucial factor on deciding whether such revolution has achieved its ultimate goals.

Supervisors: Professor David Robie, Dr Allison Oosterman

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