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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

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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Arab world needs a Rosie the Riveter

A new book on how Arab media portrays women is coming out at the right time as Arab nations undergo political change that should make governments more responsible to people and, hopefully, give women a stronger and more equal voice in the national dialogue.

Social media has helped give Arab women a voice they never had before. While picketing is visible to any passerby and therefore easily discouraged by Arab men who view the home as the woman’s role in society, social media protesting occurred secretly.

But visibility is arguably the single greatest chance for changing society. If women want a greater role in Arab society, they will have to be treated as equal in the media. Media represents a society’s shared community of ideas, and those ideas are disseminated throughout the day through media. Women in the workplace and, in general, as men’s equals, need to become part of that message.

The book, based on empirical research, looks at how international readers think Arab media portrays media. The idea is that historically, Arab media has treated women as passive, veiled observers. They have been reactionary commentators on policies designed by patriarchal and religious rulers.

But how can this be changed? The first step, in my opinion, should be through giving women a greater presence in media depictions of the workplace.

A 2002 UN report showed that women were receiving better, yet still stereotypical portrayal in Arab media:

Advertisements featuring women in the Arab world nowadays are often showing women as
submissive wives happily using the products being sold.  So the camera focus has turned toward
a different, but still stereotypical direction.  As noted by media specialist researchers, there is too
much focus on housewives and too little attention given to working women.

Arab media should take the Rosie the Riveter approach if it is to push the idea of women being equal to men in the workplace. Of course, that iconic image was US propaganda designed to draw women to the workplace while men served overseas in World War II. That image attracted many women to work side by side with men in factories and jump started the role of women in the workplace. Obviously that battle continues in the US, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar men receive. But Arab countries need to start somewhere, and lending a more positive image to women — putting them in more advertisements depicting working people is a good idea — in advertising is step one.

The Arab world needs a Rosie the Riveter

I don’t believe most Arab states are ready to push such an image, and given rampant unemployment in the Arab world I don’t believe they are in the position to do so. The US had an employment problem of the best kind — it had to fill positions — but Arab nations are having a difficult time creating jobs for thousands of young university graduates.

It certainly wasn’t American society that was ready for women in the workplace — the economy demanded it. With women receiving the vote just 20 years before, I have a hard time believing the US push for women in the workplace would have organically proceeded at such a pace without WWII.

That’s the conundrum in the Arab world. A good portion of the Arab world from the government down to the street may not be ready for Rosie the Riveter. Many Arab nations are based on “traditional roles,” many of which are (mis)guided by a fundamentalist capitulation of the Qur’an, making portraying women in the workplace not only difficult but ideologically impossible.

The Arab world needs its own Rosie the Riveter, regardless of the economic and employment conditions. If governments want to micromanage, they could offer tax credits to companies that advertise with women in the workplace — or give tax credits simply for hiring women.

It may take a paradigm shift for such initiatives to get started. The Arab Spring is that paradigm shift. If patriarchal, fundamentalist-leaning governments fall, there’s a greater chance for them to be democratically replaced by pragmatic politicians who understand women need a greater role in society.

Social media and Saudi women driving

Rushdi Siddiqui wrote an excellent opinion this week about Saudi women drivers, the contradictions of the Qur’an that Saudis have used to legitimate unequal gender rights and social media.

Siddiqui argues that social media has given women a voice. That alone is a marked change in Saudi Arabia, he contends. So if that can change, why not the laws governing who gets to drive?

It’s plausible that social media alone allowed Saudi women to put themselves in the literal and proverbial driver’s seat in their fight for driving rights. Social media has given them a way to organize and protest like they never could before, as Twitter and Facebook exist in the physical world only if someone is looking for it. What I mean by that is passersby can see picketers on the street, but you have to really be looking for something on Twitter or Facebook. That has allowed Saudi women to operate in the shadows, more or less.

I encourage you to read the entire thing. From altmuslim.com:

The womens’ driving movement in Saudi Arabia has been articulated as violating the defined traditional roles of women, a slippery slope in the adoption of western cultural values that will result in increased road accidents, public mixing of the sexes with adverse consequences, and so on. There have even been comments by local religious conservative scholars or imams that a woman driving is a violation of Shariah rules.

The stated argument of sexual context could be applicable to anything, from instant messaging to mobile phones. One wonders what is on the mind of person making such statements. In the eyes of some people, global connectivity, via social media, is the beginning of the end of segregation of the sexes. In their eyes, the ability to legislate, regulate and enforce morality has been forever undermined to the detriment of society by social media.
…..

Women have been driving in many Muslim countries, from Turkey to Pakistan to Egypt to Malaysia, and, interestingly, women have been driving in the rural areas in Saudi Arabia without incident. Is the real issue, if women are officially allowed to drive in the Kingdom, a slippery slope of women gaining more rights and, conversely, men losing their dominance over women?

Is that a bad thing? Will it encourage qualified women to join the work force and contribute to the economy? Won’t allowing women with licenses to drive actually encourage more white collar executives to bring their entire families to the country?

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.

 

Sunday links

Here are some links from the weekend that will make you think. I’ll try to do this every Sunday because who subscribes to newspapers anymore?

Iran is building a state-run Internet to that will help them control social media that helped bring about the Arab Spring and the 2009 Green Revolution.

Iran recently confirmed plans to establish a self-enclosed national Internet – a two-tier or dual network, comprising a publicly available but easily monitored Internet, with restricted access to the wider Web; and an open access Internet for government, business and tourists. Cuba, Burma, Russia and China are trying to form similar two-tier systems.

Yasser Hareb writes for the Gulf News about how Arab journalists must Tweet change to grab youth.

When half of the population in the Arab world is under the age of 25, it becomes a fact that half of the media’s targeted audience is young people using smart phones and new means of communications. Those young people do not want to sit and watch news bulletins on TV and will not be disappointed if they miss a certain programme; nor will they wait for the re-run.

Mona Eltahawy says “virginity tests” administered by the Egyptian government blur the line between politics and sex.

Let’s be clear, “virginity tests” are common in Egypt and straddle class and urban/rural divides. Be it the traditional midwife checking for a hymen on a bride’s wedding night, or a forensics expert or doctor called in after a prospective bridegroom’s suspicions, young women are forced to spread their legs to appease the god of virginity. But no one talks about it.

But it’s different when the state/SCAF is the one forcing women’s legs apart. A protest is planned for Saturday. It’s a perfect time for gender to come out of the revolution’s closet.

Following Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s failure to reform government in 100 days, protesters took to the streets.

With security greatly improved in Iraq, the citizenry has finally had the time to focus upon other issues such as governance and services. The country has been hit by twenty years of wars and sanctions, which have devastated its infrastructure. Despite the expenditure of several billion dollars in reconstruction funds, water, electricity, health care, etc., have not caught up with demand.

A martyr may spur a revolution to change the monarch’s role in Morocco, says Betwa Sharma in Foreign Policy.

Kamal Amari, 30, was a university graduate with a degree in physics who worked as a private security officer at the port in the western city of Safi. On May 29, he was caught up in the crackdown there. “Seven policemen beat him for five minutes,” said Adel Fathi, a friend.

On June 2, Amari succumbed to his wounds. Local activists call him the “first martyr” of Morocco’s freedom movement. His death has transformed Safi into a front line of the country’s protest movement.

Muhammad Faour of the Carnegie Middle East Center says Arab nations must use revolutions as a launching pad for education reform and teaching young Arabs what it means to be a citizen.

Educating young Arabs for citizenship requires much more fundamental reform than what has so far been undertaken in education reform plans. It requires getting past several serious shortcomings in the Arab education and political systems.

These shortcomings begin at the individual student level, including low learning achievement; lack of creative, independent, and critical thinking; and lack of problem-solving skills. They also include the home or family level, which is often guided by authoritarianism, obedience to authority figures, limited freedom of expression, and dependence on a family network for prospective employment.

Elliot Abrams says he believes democracy will take root in Syria when and if Bashar al Assad’s regime falls.

Some day, and tomorrow would not be soon enough, the Assad mafia will be gone and Syria will face the difficult challenge  of building a democracy after decades of bloody repression.  The Damascus Declaration—and the courage of those who wrote it and suffered time in Assad’s prisons for their principles and their patriotism—provides Syrians with the key guidelines to follow, and provides us all with some hope that democracy can indeed be built in Syria.

 

 

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