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Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

Embrace YouTube

Former Al-Jazeera anchor Lina Zahr Ad-Din is coming out with a new book that says the largest Arab news network’s standards have depreciated because of reliance on YouTube videos. I don’t think she could be more wrong, especially in the Arab world.

What good is authentication when governments knowingly manipulate the media and citizens? And, for that matter, those governments bar access to citizens in the form of limiting free speech, especially that which is critical of the government.

Arab governments have long placed restrictions on media — in Syria, foreign journalists are banned and much of the reporting has come from Lebanon — so YouTube videos and tweets from the Arab street are the only way to get the other half of the story. Many times — especially now — it is the only way to get the story at all.

From Angry Arab News Service:

 She says that most of the coverage is now driven from YouTube clips and that in the old days, editors at Aljazeera would not even allow use of YouTube footage unless verified and checked and authenticated.

Ad-Din is stuck in the past with her idea of journalism. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media have bridged the gap between oppressive governments, free speech and the media. Al-Jazeera was lauded for the first major news organization to embrace this, and it helped spur the Arab Spring. Good riddance to Ad-Din.

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Kuwaitis jailed for tweets

It took me quite a while to warm up to Twitter, albeit a little quicker than Arab regimes overthrown in part by the micro-blogging site. But Kuwait seems to get the social network’s power, as it plans to try two citizens for criticizing Gulf Arab ruling families.

Twitter was the last frontier of free speech in many of these oppressive regimes, and the United States understood this. But typical to any form of innovation, the second movers on a technology can easily copy the guys who make it to market first. In this sense, Arab governments now know what Twitter is and how to use it — and now they know how to use it against their own citizens. Arab rulers seeking to hold onto power will now watch Twitter for “subversive” activity and attempt to cut dissent movements off at the head. Kuwait’s preferred method appears to be legal intimidation.

From the Lebanon Daily Star:

Nasser Abul, a Kuwaiti Shi’ite Muslim, was arrested for posting criticisms of the Sunni Muslim ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and Lawrence al-Rashidi posted defamatory comments of Kuwait’s emir, he said.

He said both would remain in detention for two more weeks before a hearing is scheduled, where they will likely face charges of harming the Gulf Arab state’s interests and defaming the country’s ruler after being arrested earlier in June.

I’m afraid this may become more of the norm in Arab countries. Iran is already building a state-run internet to monitor social networking (and they were kind of late on that one, too, about two years after the 2009 Green Revolution). Arab nations that could suppress freedom of speech in the physical arena and closed social networks like Facebook were slow to respond to the instantaneous and more open Twitter.

The U.S. realized the benefits of social networking long ago. The U.S. government secretly was on the ground in Egypt teaching protest organizers how to use Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. In April, the U.S. State Department also announced $28 million in grants for such activities.

I trust the U.S. has trained protest organizers better than the two disgruntled Kuwaitis in custody. The Arab Spring’s figureheads have been sophisticated, not merely using Twitter for banal opining or complaining about oppressive governments. But now that Arab governments are watching, it will be interesting to see how protesters adjust.

 

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