After the Arab Spring: The freedom of the media in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Iraq

TitleAfter the Arab Spring: The freedom of the media in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Iraq
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Meyen, M., and A. Fiedler
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Munich, Germany
Section or WGPost-Socialist and Post-Authoritarian Communication Working Group
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodePOSF3a
Slot Code (Keyword)POSF3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleAfter the Arab Spring: Media systems in transition & Business meeting
Submission ID5620

Using the example of Arab societies two years after the Arab Spring, the present study asks for factors influencing a media system’s development after a social upheaval: Which factors actually decide whether a post-authoritarian society develops democratic and professional media structures or not? How long does it take to launch such a transformation process and how do specific circumstances in the past affect the present? To answer these questions, the four countries Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Iraq are perfect subjects for analysis for two reasons. First, we are able to analyse and compare different transformation stages. What started in Tunisia in December 2010 and reached Egypt and Libya in January and February 2011 is almost history in Iraq where the societal change was caused by the US invasion back in 2003. Secondly, both social structures and old times’ media systems differ a lot among the four countries under investigation. Therefore, the present study cannot only compare media offers, legal conditions, censorship, media control, media steering, training and both journalists’ role perceptions and working conditions but also look for influences of society, traditions, religion, and national media history. As theoretical background serves a model that systematizes factors mentioned in the literature on comparing media systems (Hanitzsch 2008). The findings are based on both recent literature on Arab countries as well as interviews with experts. The sample of the latter consists of high-ranking local journalists (editors-in-chief, commentators, and television presenters), local media activists, university professors, foreign correspondents, and NGO representatives working in the region. While most interviews were conducted via telephone or Skype, there are some written interviews too. Asking experts was the best way of investigating the situation since literature often has been overtaken by events. In communication and media studies, there was a lot of excitement about the new media and the revolution but by far not as much attention was paid to the transformation process after the Arab Spring. The present study has produced three main results. First, freedom of the media is not the most important problem societies in transformation have to solve. All four countries are still on the way and have to fight for major issues such as safety (Iraq, Egypt) or a new constitution (Libya). Secondly, however, there are first indications of the functional differentiation of a media system bound to its own logic. For example, in all four countries there are new laws regarding media and journalists and new licensing rules (detachment from both the judicial and the political system). Thirdly, and most important, the journalists in those countries are not the same any more. The experience of the social upheaval leads to journalistic self-confidence and criticism. Therefore, an important precondition for democratic media structures is fulfilled. Reference Hanitzsch, T. (2008). Comparing Media Systems Reconsidered: Recent Development and Directions for Future Research. Journal of Global Mass Communication 1(3/4), 111-117

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