Conflict Coverage and al_jazeera_arabic_logo.jpg

The Al Jazeera Arabic News Mediology: Shaping Cultural Identity in the Middle East



Conflict in a postmodern paradigm isn’t simply about sophisticated warfare, complicated sting operations and precision weaponry. Just as postmodernists Foucualt, Derrida , Debord and Rorty challenge the adaptability of theoretical constructs surrounding media production and consumption, parties to a conflict must “deconstructively” adapt at every moment to the speed at which information alters the landscape of battle grounds the world over. Conflict (and Conflict Resolution) depends increasingly on media perceptions and the informational value systems that form “cultural identity” – the diverse aggregates of ethnic, religious, racial, historic, geographical and socio-economic norms within society.

This brief paper looks at how such an information system as the Al Jazeera Arabic news network, through its myriad instruments of mediological transmission and communication, is a pivotal force for critically defining identity in the Middle East region where conflict has been rife long before and up to the recent Arab Spring uprisings. Regis Debray defines Mediology as “analyzing the "higher social functions" (religion, ideology, art, politics) in their relationship with the means and mediums/environments [milieux] of transmission and transport.” [1] The goal is to shed light on the significance of media tools (the “milieux” of news media ) in both mirroring social aspirations of freedom and prosperity as well as influencing the propagation of values that challenge traditional identity structures within Arab society as a whole (not as a monolith). As “Islamic”, tribal, monarchical, parliamentarian, post-colonial inspired and Western capitalist style democratic ideals compete in the region, recent conflicts provide a ripe, new, historic opportunity (despite the apparent mayhem) for Arabs to define and embrace their diversity and shape their postmodern realities using media to express as well as inform toward these ends. In essence, Arab cultural identity defines media consumption and media consumption defines Arab cultural identity…in a circular paradox, at the helm of which is the region’s most influential transnational news network: Al Jazeera.


The Political Economy of Al Jazeera News Content

Frederic Jameson posited that all works and their aesthetics exhibit “roots in political and economic conditions”. He divides the production of art or creation of works into three categories: the political, in which the product represents a fictitious or prescriptive answer to difficult issues relevant to a particular era; the social, in which it represents the nature of the hierarchical structure of discourse within society; and the mode of production, signifying the forces that determine its value according to various global economic systems. [2] The creation, transmission and communication of news in today’s digital communities is subject to these influences and as Jameson outlines in “Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”, cultural productions (such as the news) “project some conception of a new systematic cultural norm and its reproduction in order to reflect more adequately on the most effective forms of any radical cultural politics today”. [3] This means that postmodern forms of reproduction are a direct reflection of capital (economic, cultural and social, as per Bourdieu) that shape reality and truth.

Political economic structures in the MidEast region have traditionally consisted of government run news networks with highly regulated images and dialogic substance. Post-colonial Arab news media reflected an informational system where, as Debray would observe, “belief is a complex cultural phenomenon which is crucial for the processes of transmission…what enables and lubricates transmission is the organization of affect into a social imaginary which materializes as institutions, places of worship and commemoration. The power of those institutions consist in their purporting to embody an other invisible and transcendent place (be it “God”, “Nation”, or “Party”) which – in turn- functions to guarantee a community’s boundaries and coherence”. [4] Authoritarian and state governed media was the only defining force in which the typical Nasserian media models of a top down, one-to -many broadcasting style dominated the communications industry. These models went largely unchallenged and were constantly supported by threats of closure, boycott or violence against dissenting opinion. Society therefore was conditioned to be complacent and fearful of presenting a challenging view or expressing divergent opinions from the State regarding important socio-economic and political issues in the news.

To understand this core transmission structure, we must begin in 1996 when the Al Jazeera network, partially state funded, partially private investor owned began as an impartial news source and platform for discussing issues relating to the Arab world. Its motto: “ar rai, war rai al akhir” or “the opinion and the other (counter) opinion”; its goal: to offer “dissenting views” and “editorially independent” content, especially in the realm of news and conflict coverage. The opportunity to create the network was born out of the dismantling of the BBC’s Arabic broadcast wing, as a result of which the Qatar Media Corporation and its royal family head, Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamir al Thani, along with a few private investors absorbed not only some 250 journalists (many with bilingual talent), but also the essential model of the BBC charter. [5] It was this news niche combined with unique accessibility and the broadcast capabilities of a new era of media tools in which “current technologies privilege ‘mimetic immediacy’ over ‘symbolic mediation’ (1993:37), thereby becoming inimical to the temporality of transmission” that gave Al Jazeera’s conflict imagery an edge over government owned transnational media outlets (like Al Arabiya) and other less courageous privately owned competitors.[6] Whereas Western media endured cut backs in their journalism industries, Al Jazeera’s funding sources have permitted it to function relatively unaffected by the rising costs of broadcasting. And whereas Western embedded journalists need familiarity with various Arab cultures and environments in covering conflict, Al Jazeera journalists had the cross cultural and intercultural knowledge and support that facilitated unparalleled conflict coverage.


Khalid Dawoud, an Al Jazeera correspondent speaks in this video of the

history of Al Jazeera and the intent of the network as an “alternative voice”and not necessarily an objective news outlet. By not claiming to represent objectivity per se, the network focuses its resources on obtaining differing views surrounding conflict issues, or what Al Nawawy and Iskander coin “contextual objectivity” in which the goal is “to reflect all sides of any story while retaining the values, beliefs and sentiments of the target audience”.[7] An example of this is the challenge to traditional hierarchies in Arab societies posed by its use of pro-Palestinian language and pictorial semiotics starkly juxtaposed with an actual Israeli presence on the screen for the first time, all in a discursive setting aimed at getting the Israeli perspective. Robin Wright, former LA journalist now at USIP observed that “…the constant stream of pictures in the Arab World is quite overwhelming. And it’s not only an issue in terms of turning people out into the streets, it’s become an issue for governments…led to a kind of alarm among leaders like they’ve never felt before in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I think Al Jazeera has created a phenomenon we have yet to fully appreciate”. [8]
(source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0onmxrEBrvI&feature=relmfu


But the political economy supporting the network’s influence shows the clear advantages of bountiful funding that enables the purchase of cutting edge technologies, the enlisting of world class journalistic and media management talent from the West (most notably the BBC and CNN) and deployment of journalists to those conflict zones central to the War on Terror as well as those areas of the world ignored by the Western media. By 2002, even though some 150 Arab satellite channels with similar commercial structures (state as well as privately owned) had sprouted all over the region, Al Jazeera thrived as the most influential transnational, pan-Arab news media outlet in the Middle East. The environment of the news culture developed in the early 2000s is best summarized by this quarterly publication of the Middle East Publication called the Palestinian-Israel journal of Politics, Economics and Culture:

“The launching of Arab transnational commercial television had broadened viewer’ programming choices and also provides access to new formats and styles rarely used in government-monopolized television. Professional rather than political considerations seem to be the driving force behind news at private stations keen on establishing a foothold in a highly competitive media market. For private stations, what makes news is a host of values that relate to the event or issue and its significance for the audience. To this end, private broadcasters have invested heavily in news development by introducing state-of-the-art technologies and establishing far flung networks of reporters and correspondents. The visual capabilities of television are highly utilized, with rich graphics and video materials, as well as sleek delivery formats” [9]

The question of cultural identity within this atmosphere of news media, in the context of McLuhan’s “media is the message”, calls into question whether embracing cutting edge technologies that mimic and often outdo Western media styles carry enough substantive cultural identity relevance, provoke critical thinking or address socially important matters for Arabs any more than the Bollywood fantasy films that excel in visual imagery and hyperglossia but leave much to culturally identify with for the average native media consumer in India. It seems that amid news hypermediacy, Al Jazeera embodied what Harold Laswell would call the “Who (says) What (to) Whom (in) What channel (with) What effect” in the sense that its unprecedented post 9/11 war coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan, exclusive airing of the Osama Bin Laden tapes, and open Arab Spring coverage of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya earned it a clear advantage over other networks. [10] As a result, government run networks in the MidEast have predictably dwindled in viewership and popularity as, in the words of Jean Francois Lyotard, “The ideology of communicational ‘transparency’ which goes hand in hand with the commercialization of knowledge, will perceive the state as a factor of opacity and ‘noise’”.[11]

“Contextual Objectivity” and Conflict Coverage

Al Nawawy and Iskander’s “contextual objectivity” intended to embody the “value, beliefs and sentiments” of Arab cultural identity necessitates a look at exactly what constitutes the social fabric of the Middle East viewership. In examining its reach across social strata, INSEAD’s 2010 study reveals a breakdown of Al Jazeera viewership by age, income, areas (rural, suburban, urban), educational levels, marital status , religion as well as penetration levels (%) and potential audience (please refer to embedded link at end of this paragraph for visuals as they are restricted from reproduction through copyrights). Viewership is estimated at 53,208,177 out of a population of 405,498,865 (with adult viewership age being set at 15 years). Perhaps the most striking cultural identity element is that 96% of its viewership is Muslim, a huge factor in the cultural objectivity of programming. Note that these figures are overall network consumption data and not specific to news coverage per se and therefore include other programming genres (such as sports and religious shows), but that they constitute the closest statistics available on the demographics of Al Jazeera Arabic viewership. [12]

What Nawawy and Iskander are essentially referring to with their notion of “contextual objectivity” is the use of Umberto Eco’s “Cultural Encyclopedia” and the Arab “dictionary” to present news in contexts that are relevant to MidEast society. In this sense, Al Jazeera is powerful entity representing information as it relates to historically rooted social and cultural codes and the symbolic associations with those codes. Inserting images and signs as well as linguistic elements into the news that have special significance to an audience makes the news network a critical shaper of identity and values. And the recursive use of these calls for constant reinterpretation within different realms and time periods - a skill that Arab societies are now being forced to contend with in a postmodern news world. This puts them into an environment where news commodification, the spectacle of news and capitalist aspirations behind news have glaring contrast to the comfortable top-down, traditional social hierarchal presentation of state owned news media of the MidEast. The “cultural encyclopedia” is being deconstructed in a continuous manner while simultaenously being built around an evolving system of values where information flows in a postmodernist trend toward a more open search for truth and reality within news.

War coverage in modern media is heavy in Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation elements. Al Jazeera’s claim to fame is based on these elements ever present in its raw footage, often disturbing and shockingly real, of conflicts in some of the most remote areas of the globe. Hypermediated visuals reflecting the great spectacle of news media (the global postmosdern phenomenon of capitalism feeding the spectacular) are recursively presented in their original format, careful to maintain realistic visual elements for viewers. No doubt, as a Moroccan source claims, Al Jazeera has notably “leaned toward sensational reporting in recent years due to high competition with Al Arabiya and other good quality media channels.” [13] Yet despite Saudi Arabian and Iraqi preferences for Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera “continues to change the complexion of the public debate in the Arab World, and successfully promotes the idea that an independent news station can exist in the Middle East”.[14] The coverage of post 9-11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were prime examples of Al Jazeera’s reach in terms of footage of events on the ground in their most primal state, but it also brought alternative perspectives to the realities of dominant Western news. It was a counter balance for Arabs to hegemonic Western perspectives on the War on Terror and even later, the Arab Spring uprisings.

Earning legitimacy and credibility is an essential part of being a trusted source of information and alternate views in Al Jazeera’s goal of "contextual objectivity". From the Arab-Israeli conflict and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it seems all but natural for Al Jazeera to be the “voice of the Arab public” during the more recent Arab Spring uprisings. As Hugh Miles outlines in “The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that is Challenging the West”, the immediacy of live coverage boosted the network’s social impact on populations, away from reliance on state controlled media and into the world of immediacy and participatory media. As a result, there was “a new regional standard in accurate reporting. Al Jazeera let the Arab public speak and be heard, by giving a large portion of its live shows to taking calls, emails and faxes. It gave Israelis a voice, whereas previously few Arabs had ever heard one speak. It helped the Arab advertising market coalesce and expand. It accustomed Arabs to a standard form of Arabic speech and led to a growing sense of regional integration”.[15]

The Al Jazeera conflict Mediasphere

A mediasphere is the “middle ground, setting or environment (milieu) of the transmission and carrying (transport) of messages and people” and includes the processes of grasping and archiving as well as circulating information. In short it requires looking at visual culture in terms of encoding, decoding of signs, symbols and semiotics that occur within the videosphere that marks the digital age of Al Jazeera news. Within the mediasphere of news and conflict coverage, there is what Stuart Hall would call a complex structure of codes reflecting stages with distinct power relations that are reproduced continually. [16]

New Media

To enhance cable and satellite viewership, Al Jazeera keeps its audience engaged

in latest conflict coverage updates using various New Media tools and platforms.Distribution includes satellite and cable, IP TV over ADSL, Al Jazeera mobile (a growing potential) and the Internet. [17] Figures from March 2011 show the Middle East having the world’s largest internet penetration at 31.7% comparedwith the global average of 30.2% (please refer to embedded annotation for graphics as they cannot be reproduced due to copyrights). [18] It is important to account for the fact that the telecommunications infrastructures of the region are substantially varied with some countries being advanced while others, like Yemen, lagging behind in fixed line communications. Nevertheless, since 2005, Al Jazeera has begun aggressively using New Media instruments such as Facebook, Twitter, iphone applications, podcasts and mobile web services. [19] In recognizing that the mobile technology market has currently a much higher penetration than even the internet and countries like Jordan (which has significantly opted for mobile over internet services) it has accordingly increased mobile web applications since the early 2000s. Mobile Facebook and Twitter applications allow people to catch the news from any location as well as connect with specific programs that promote discussions around political issues while allowing journalists to attract and create a following. Instant Messaging connected to email accounts and podcasts as well as the availability of a vast viewership on Youtube[20] allows Al Jazeera’s to create and reproduce the metanarratives of its diverse news reports from any place on earth.
( this video depicts the Live Al Jazeera Channel, including streaming, archiving and links to citizen journalism tools - source:http://www.youtube.com/user/aljazeerachannel)

internet_penetration_middle_east_2010.jpg
http://blogs.terrapinn.com/internetshow/2011/08/25/statistics-internet-usage-arab-world-mena-region/

middle_east_internet_usage_2010.jpg
These images are a useful view of the relevance of the internet in specific Arab countries and is intended to supplement the important INSEAD findings also annotated herein - source:http://blogs.terrapinn.com/internetshow/2011/08/25/statistics-internet-usage-arab-world-mena-region/)

internet_platforms_projection_for_middle_east_2011.jpg
devices_projection_in_middle_east_2011.jpg
(These images depict the potential growth of mobile device usage that will be relevant to Al Jazeera's distribution network and stategy http://tbreak.com/tech/2011/01/32-of-middle-east-users-plan-to-buy-smartphone-in-next-12-months-nielsen-report/)


A huge aspect of distribution also includes strategic partnerships designed

to proliferate original Al Jazeera news content. For instance,Sweden’s cell
phone provider Sony Ericsson allied with Al Jazeera toprovide Arabic and
Englishnews headlines to cell phones. Al Jazeera also sells it footage to
other outlets (including CNN, BBC and Fox News)for their own recursive purposes as long as the network is given creditwhere it is due. The aggregate effect of these various facets of its mediasphere, has made Al Jazeera the most watched news channelon Youtube, with some 2.5million views per month. The Al Jazeera English website is visited by 22 million people meaning Westerners as well as those in the Arab diaspora receive the same information and share, interact with and consume the coverage with all its cultural representations and “contextual objectivity”.[22]
(This video shows Al Jazeera's YouTube channel - source: http://www.youtube.com/user/aljazeerachannel)

The manner in which Al Jazeera’s internet presence challenges current traditional forms of cultural identity in the MidEast can be summarized as follows:

  • the internet creates universality where nationality is less important, allowing a pan-Arab, transnational communications style and system like Al Jazeera’s to garner a large following
  • societies can form distant but diverse and cohesive communities or “microcultures” not bound by the traditional nation-state idea
  • the web allows news media like Al Jazeera to form a virtual and relaxed public sphere in which governments have less say than important advertising partners, opinion makers in the news and public relations entities
  • proliferating views via blogs and other independent internet media allows Al Jazeera’s news coverage to gain a powerful recursive quality with multiple forums/channels for discussion

While images and semiotics (pictorial included) are recursively transmitted during conflict and the “live” aspect is accompanied by Foucaultian rituals of truth-seeking through discursive and dialogic commentary (furthered even more by social media expansion), a new culture of openness and participation contrasts with suppressive, superficial state owned media reducing its reach, or so it would seem. A recent poll in April 2011 conducted by a Yale University study reveals that while opinions and the desire for democracy are being expressed via the internet, authoritarian governments are using this to its advantage - “some regimes (not all) tolerate subversive activity in the media either because they cannot stop it , or because they stand to learn from it.” States also realize that “holding back the tide of information technologies can be a liability in the long run. It could also place them on the periphery in many vital domains for development. In a region that has become exceedingly development oriented, these risks are often not worthwhile.”[23] In fact, many governments are competing on the same platforms to spread their own propaganda worldwide, in some instances creating web based discussion forums where citizens can ask direct questions related to governance. So while the state uses the internet for a dual purpose of monitoring and engaging, networks such as Al Jazeera must contend with this scrutiny as well as compete for media participation within its own mediasphere. There is no doubt, for instance, that authorities used the internet and social media activity during the Arab Spring to hunt down dissidents and journalists, spreading an immense amount of fear about challenging the cultural hierarchal structures within Arab society. [24]

Nevertheless, Arabs are no longer set on considering outdated political value systems as relevant as they strive to participate online and on Al Jazeera’s opinion polls, often using the network’s widespread world viewership as a means to enhance the effectiveness of peaceful protests and gatherings. The internet is “serving to promote attributes that define democratic society: the fundamental freedom of speech, the right to criticize government, and the right to freely assemble.” To add to this, expanding its New Media and social media presence allows society to “address pressing issues – human rights violations, political inequalities, cases of government corruption, and errant fundamentalism – Al Jazeera has become a primary weapon in the battle for Arab self-determination, an end to authoritarianism and regional support for democratic institutions”. [25]


Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalists offer video footage and pictures that reflect their own

angles on issues using platforms such as Al Jazeera’s website “Sharek”which means “share”.[26] By soliciting videos and pictures, blog posts and Tweets with Facebook connectivity, journalists and citizens alike can circumvent restrictions as they did in the Arab Spring uprisings. Creating individual depictions of truth and reality reflects a postmodern dynamic in which multiple alternative views. Sharek has an Arabic blog space at http://sharek.aljazeera.net where webcam and mobile uploads of video and pictures connect with Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube much like CBSEyemobile or Spot.us. The accompanying video is a May 7 2012 peaceful protest in Syria about the “Majlis al Sha’ab” or the People’s Council of Syria, the most dominant power of which is the Ba’ath party.[27]The value of this lies in the element of creating what Lyotard would observe as “social bonds” of pan-Arabism in which people are able to visually connect with each other on a multidimensional digital platforms that share their experiences across nations in the region, building the cultural encyclopedia of the Arab world through mosaics of personal representations of truth and reality. (source:http://sharek.aljazeera.net/node/57690)

A Critical Juncture

Having discussed the Political Economy of the Al Jazeera news culture (albeit in a cursory manner), it must be noted that there are underlying structural and editorial issues which have affected the influence of the news network in recent months. Hugh Miles noted Media Relations head Jihad Ballout as claiming that since Al Jazeera is a free to air channel, it is difficult to tell exactly how many people actually tune in and more difficult to do a census that involves cultural as well as technical research. Why? Because “Arabs, or Muslims in general, are a bit apprehensive about people knocking on their door and asking them intrusive questions.” [28] Al Jazeera network began with an initial $137million investment (and an annual projected budget of $25million) from the Emir of Qatar to create the Arab equivalent of BBC and CNN with more debate, open dialogue, independent programming and alternative perspectives. However, there remains a fear among advertisers of being associated with a network that ruffles the feathers of governments, and the potential harm to their businesses. Saudi Arabia in particular has been aggressive about pressuring advertisers not to invest in Al Jazeera. The network therefore still relies largely on state funding to sustain operations while advertising revenues remain shaky due to the fact that “market conditions in the Middle East advertising industry have not been favorable.”[29]

Private grants, subscriptions to Al Jazeera’s sports channel and sales of footage to other media outlets as well as deals like that with Google to share advertising revenue connected with the Al Jazeera YouTube channel have yet to make a dent in profitability and leave no choice other than further funding from the Emir of Qatar. The heavy shift of MidEast youth populations to internet alternatives for news leaves the question of how to “monetize digital news broadcasts” even more challenging in terms of independent sustainability. [30] Al Jazeera, the pioneer of the liberation of news and information in the Middle East, has had to find ways to expand its global web presence to compete with other Arab news outlets. One such new-kid-on-the-block is “Sky News Arabia” – a joint venture of British BSkyB and a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family (Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al –Nahayan), just launched on May 8th 2012. Despite its like minded approach of an independent editorial advisory committee, this new network may likely not be immune from accusations of state influence owing to royal family funding, but it promises to be another voice in the Middle East that uses Western democratic approaches to information in the media and one that may have learned hard lessons from the example of Al Jazeera. [31] In fact, recent events in late 2011 caused the step down of Al Jazeera’s chief news executive Waddah Khanfar, who was replaced by an Egyptian who grapples with an administrative overhaul that is now increasingly tainted with accusations of pandering to Qatari foreign policy. [32]

The credibility that Al Jazeera once had has come under scrutiny lately due to editorial decisions that have shattered its reputation and accusations over the extent of sensationalism the network employs. In the past, Al Jazeera was the only station allowed to operate inside Afghanistan during the war, the only network to be given exclusive Osama Bin Laden tapes and the only channel with the most thorough coverage of the Arab Spring. Yet the network has been accused of a “distinct style considered by some to be wordy and depressing, and focused too heavily on topics of death and destruction”. The heavy lean toward the apparent ugly face of conflict not only serves to make other stations more attractive but does little to promote positivity among the region’s large and growing youth population.[33]

The very “contextual objectivity” touted by Al Jazeera news has its own disadvantages and has led to criticisms of incongruence between the Arabic network and its English sister station. In addition to the semiotics and linguistic styles that cause English words like “victim” or “killed” to have the equivalent of “martyred ” in Arabic , there are elements within programming that reflect stark differences in how the same story is passionately presented to the Arab population and less so to audiences in English speaking countries. The depiction of such differing angles has been another factor in reducing Al Jazeera’s credibility lately as an unbiased source of conflict coverage. A less cautious style is most notable in the Al Jazeera’s Arab Israeli coverage where the goal is to let Arabs “feel there is someone fighting on their behalf”. Clear preferences in terminology and pictorial editing show views that are sympathetic to Palestinians. As Hugh Miles observed from the network’s earlier days, this is driven by the fact that religion is an important identity element in the region – “It’s part of the channel’s identity and their brand, how they are going to differentiate themselves from their competitors”. In fact, the Emir of Qatar reportedly sees himself as a man of religion, wanting to show another face of Wahhabi Islam that is non-Saudi, non-nationalist and more focused on contributing to the world. [34]
Perhaps the biggest of all setbacks for the network has been recent editorial decisions revolving around the 2011 uprisings in Syria and Bahrain.
Israeli advisor to Prime Ministers Rabin and Shamir said in the case of the Tunisian and Libyan revolutions that without Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, there would be little impact of the Arab Spring since it was the notion that “there were others, because they were not alone. Which is the only way to break the barrier when you see that there are others.” [35] But this was hardly the case with Bahrain. The world and especially Al Jazeera Arabic stood by when Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent (with the support of other Gulf countries) military assistance to squash the resistance movement in the small emirate. This video, a documentary called “Shouting in the Dark” [36] was produced by Al Jazeera English but was not broadcast by Al Jazeera Arabic in the Middle East. “Contextual Objectivity” failed the Bahraini people as the network was unable to challenge the authoritarian decisions of rich Gulf countries this time around (this is a compelling documentary that runs about 50 minutes). For the first time, it became blatantly clear that “Gulf-financed stations were more interested in regional security than Bahrainis' dreams of democracy and freedom and their revolt against tyranny” [37] and Al Jazeera Arabic was no longer visibly immune to this.

( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaTKDMYOBOU)

In the case of Syria, the network has been showing a clear desire to control what is being broadcast and how, especially since the hacking of a trail of Al Jazeera internal management emails reveal orders from government authorities about selecting elements of the Syrian uprising’s real time events. Ali Hashemi, former journalist for Al Jazeera, resigned and later wrote why in a piece for The Guardian: “ I was one of those who experienced it when al-Jazeera, the channel I used to work for, refused to air footage of gunmen fighting the Syrian regime on the borders between Lebanon and Syria. I saw tens of gunmen crossing the borders in May last year – clear evidence that the Syrian revolution was becoming militarised. This didn't fit the required narrative of a clean and peaceful uprising, and so my seniors asked me to forget about gunmen.”[38]
To view the opinions of Ali Hashem on the details of Al Jazeera Arabic's coverage and his opinion on the direction of the news network, please visit: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=8106
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=8107
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=8108

The biggest challenge to Qatar’s Al Jazeera Arabic now is its ability to sustain credibility and legitimacy within the Arab world itself given the political economy of its financial set up and the manner in which cultural identity is still very much controlled by authoritarian regimes despite glimmers of democratic change. Post colonial and more recent rivalries amongst the leadership in the region and other geo-political and social fissures (including religious divisions between Sunnis and Shi’is) were indeed exposed over the last decade by Al Jazeera. But the representations are now open game for competing alternate media sources. Populations that for generations have not known how to question authority and engage in debate around conflict are now pressed to choose between a future in which their identity is defined for them and one they strive to shape themselves. Economic disparities and the lack of opportunities for youth, women, ethnic and religious minorities leave the area volatile, as the Arab Spring has already proved.

Democratic change that encourages a larger middle class, more respect and adherence for justice and the rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly and basic human rights will depend upon media just as much as media will reflect the priorities of Arab societies. Derrida expressed that democracy calls for sovereign entities to share power and believed that they ultimately cannot exist without sharing that power. As Foucault and Kuhn claim of the “regime” of truth: “Truth is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it.” [39] Whether Al Jazeera will remain an influential player in the quest for truth within Arab cultural identity or whether it has reached its demise as the primary catalyst for change in the Middle East are questions that are yet to reveal themselves in months to come.


Annotated Bibliography


[1] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Debray-What_is_Mediology.html
[2] http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/jameson/index.html
[3] http://homepage.newschool.edu/~quigleyt/vcs/jameson/jameson.html
[4] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Papoulias-Review-Debray-Transmission-2004.pdf (p167)
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Jazeera
[6] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Papoulias-Review-Debray-Transmission-2004.pdf
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contextual_objectivity. and “Al Jazeera, How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East” by Mohammed El-Nawawy and Adel Iskander.
[8] Kalb, Stephen Hess and Marvin. The Media and the War on Terrorism. Washington, : The Brookings Institution, 2003. P 186
[9] http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=42
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Lasswell
[11] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Lyotard-PostModernCondition1-5.html
[12] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p13-14
[13] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p5
[14] http://www.au.af.mil/info-ops/iosphere/07winter/iosphere_win07_carney.pdf p8
[15] Miles, Hugh. Al Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Chalenging the West. New York: Grove Press, 2005. P 335
[16] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/SH-Coding.pdf
[17] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p7
[18] http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats5.htm
[19] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p11
[20] http://www.youtube.com/user/aljazeerachannel
[21] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p17
[22] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p16
[23] http://yris.yira.org/essays/171 p10
[24] http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/08/23/technology-arab-spring
[25] http://yris.yira.org/essays/171 p171
[26] http://www.mediaspy.org/report/2012/05/07/al-jazeera-relaunches-citizen-journalism-portal/
[27] http://sharek.aljazeera.net/node/57690
[28] Miles, Hugh. Al Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Chalenging the West. New York: Grove Press, 2005. P 66
[29] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p8
[30] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p9
[31] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/bskyb-sky-news-arabia-abu-dhabi-royal_n_1499349.html?icid=hp_media_top_art
[32] http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/al-jazeera-syria-case-tunnel-vision
[33] http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/documents/Al-Jazeera-w.pdf p9
[34] http://globalnewsroom.org/al-jazeera-one-name-two-channels/
[35] http://globalnewsroom.org/al-jazeera-one-name-two-channels/
[36] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaTKDMYOBOU
[37] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/03/arab-spring-arab-tv-credibility
[38] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/03/arab-spring-arab-tv-credibility
[39] http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/CCTP748/Foucault-Outline.html

Videography

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0onmxrEBrvI&feature=relmfu
http://www.youtube.com/user/aljazeerachannel
http://sharek.aljazeera.net/node/57690
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUCv5N0HRZ4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaTKDMYOBOU