In terms of international recognition, Al-Jazeera being nominated for a Webby alone is a major deal moving forward for Arab Media credibilitiy internationally. But on May 1st, it became official that al-Jazeera won a Webby award for the “Best News Tablet in Mobile Apps.” This is huge for al-Jazeera and Arab Media at large. Al-Jazeera’s online magazine beat out well known international outlets such as the New York Times and, according to an article released by al-Jazeera won 40 percent of the votes. This is an unprecedented victory for media in the Arab World as they seek to further demonstrate themselves as a credible and reliable outlet both regionally and internationally with al-Jazeera clearly leading the way. Granted, this is only a Webby award and the second one that al-Jazeera has won in two years, but a precedent has been set in which al-Jazeera will continue to grow in international prominence.
On May 3rd of 2013, Google announced that it was officially changing the name of ‘Palestinian Territories’ to Palestine across all of her platforms. The official announcement seems to depict that Google has recognized Palestine as an independent entity rather than an occupied territory of the State of Israel. To make matters more interesting, Google also created a new hyperlink http://www.google.ps which is Palestine’s official home page on the popular global search engine.
Google’s shift in policy helps to further legitimize the cries of Palestinians who are actively seeking the creation of a homeland for their people. This recent development, along with the upgrade in Palestine’s status within the United Nations General Assembly last year, has helped to further the cause of an independent Palestine. What this article shows is that popular sentiment is changing and the dynamic of the Arab-Israeli Conflict is thus changing as well.
When people discuss the Arab Spring, the main focal point of that discussion is usually revolved around the success it has had in the region. We have seen revolutions occur in Egypt, Tunisia, and currently progressing in Syria that will bring change to the region. What kind of change and to what extent the change will be are questions that can’t yet be fully answered. But, there is no denying that major positives have resulted from the Arab Spring.
However, this article from al-Jazeera reminds us that not everything has changed. Kuwait, an Arab country that is perceived to be moderate, recently jailed a major opposition leader for ‘insulting the Emir’ of Kuwait. Mussallam al-Barrak, a former Member of Parliament, is charged with five years in prison for insulting the Emir which is seen as a major crime in Kuwaiti law. This case has drawn major criticism from human rights groups who argued that the Kuwaiti Court of Justice failed to allow the defense to call certain witnesses such as Kuwait’s current Prime Minister to the stand.
This article is important in that it highlights how far the region still has to go for political equality and embracing certain freedoms such as speech. Kuwait, who has been a major supporter of the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions in the Council of the Arab League appears to be a hypocrite in regard to her own domestic policies. This is a perfect example of power politics and how Arab States are still trying to control the media and censor information in their respective nations while, at the same time, punish those that preach disobedience or criticize the status quo.
There is no denying the fact that the International System is changing; rapidly. The world of 25 years ago in which two Superpowers dominated a divisive bi-polar system is no longer in place. What has filled the void of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is something much more Westphalian in nature. The early 1990s may have appeared to be a uni-polar world dominated by the United States but this was only a temporary reality and a long-term illusion. What has truly transpired is a world that has become increasingly multi-polar and, therefore, more Westphalian in nature than her Cold War counterpart. No where is this more evident than in the Middle East where the forces that drove the Arab Spring are only just beginning to be comprehended.
Al-Jazeera English published an article called Diplomacy, Obama and the Middle East on April 1st of this year that challenges the traditional US foreign policy in the region. This article is based off of an episode of Empire which highlighted how US power has weakened in the region over the past few decades. But, more importantly, discusses where US policy should proceed moving forward. In particular, the author questions the full validity of the “unbreakable alliance” between the US and Israel and how that alliance can solve issues in the region especially in the “Occupied Territories.” The bottom line is the US has failed to adequately react to the Arab Spring and the Arab World has noticed. This article depicts the increasing vocal nature of the Arab Media and how her audience has increased internationally. In order for US policy to change, a more vocal voice from the region like al-Jazeera is vital. The criticism from both the American and Arab public is a necessary step if there will be peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
The link to the episode is attached below:
This image from the historic city of Boston permeated across news outlets all over the world last Monday as the global human community was still reeling from the shock of the attacks on Bolyston Street. The scale of the bombings may have been minimal in comparison to say September 11th but the impact it had on the city was undeniable. Fear, anxiety, and hatred are unfortunate by-products of any such attack especially when you consider a pre-existing phobia of Islam that entered the United States via 9/11. This is the vibe that Al-Jazeera English picked up on in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. In an effort to prevent a repeat of the discrimination faced by Muslims and Arabs worldwide after 9/11, Al-Jazeera writer Khaled Beydoun states “concern for loved ones was superseded by a distinctly Arab and Muslim-American psychosis.” It is awful to think of this situation in this perspective, but if we look back on the history of Muslim-Americans in the US over the past decade, this mentality does make sense. Even though research on Islamophobia is still in its infancy, it is apparent in both the United States and Western Europe. This article is a reflection of Muslim sentiment around the world regarding the Western view of Terrorism and associating it solely with Muslims; the unfortunate result being the misconception that all Muslims are Arabs and increased racial discrimination against Arabs around the world. But, this article also illustrates the global impact that Arab media is beginning to have on the global audience.
The Middle East is a region that has been undergoing a rapid transformation over the past few decades. This transformation has brought into question numerous social issues that have come to highlight the battle between contemporary Arab society and the societal norms of the West seemingly brought to the region by so-called “modernization.” A major issue in this conflict is Women’s Rights. Traditional Middle Eastern views hold Women on a far lower place in society then men. However, just like hip hop is challenging traditional society, women’s rights activists are doing the same. These activists such as Tawakul Karman has inspired many to challenge the status quo on women, how the Quran views women, and how society as a whole views the role of women. The article below does a great job detailing the struggle of young Yemeni women trying to gain a better education system for themselves. The reality is that, thanks in large part to the expansion of Arab media, an awareness has fostered in the region. This awareness has promoted the expansion of a domestic women’s rights movement dedicated to the betterment of female lives in many Arab countries. Granted, this article exemplifies the fight that still needs to be won, but it also depicts how far the region has come with balancing Islam with today’s world.
Article: Yemen women continue tough fight for rights
The battle between Arab media and Arab governments took another twist today when Saudi Arabia announced it may put an end to anonymity on Twitter according to Al-Jazeera. It seems that Saudi Arabia, weary of the power of social media, has taken precautions to make sure that the criticism available in Tunisia will not be available in the land of the Al-Saud monarchy. As has been used against political parties in the past, the Saudi royal family will be using the Ministry of Interior and identification papers as a way of monitoring who is using the social media outlet. However, it is important to note that Twitter is not the only website impacted by the potential new legislation from Riyadh. Skype has also been mentioned as a popular site up for censorship as well.
It is clear that these measures are an attempt by Riyadh to concentrate power in the hands of the Saudi royal family and to maintain the status quo indefinitely. As we have seen in the Arab Spring, governments have acted in one of three ways; (1) react against a revolution/insurgency, (2) make accomodations within the goverrnment such as a new constitution, and (3) hold new elections and transfer power over to a new government. It is clear here that Saudi Arabia has chosen the first option. It will be interesting to see how everyday Saudis, who have come to use Twitter frequently as a forum for debate, will react to this legislation once it is in place. Only time will tell to see if Saudi Arabia will safely ride the wave known as the Arab Spring.
Article: Saudi Arabia ‘may end’ Twitter user anonymity