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The changing Face of Aljazeera - From "media Rogue" to "mainstream Voice" in Today's social media- dominated Global World

Abstract : We propose to evaluate the evolution of the Aljazeera network in its central role over the past decade covering military conflicts and uprisings in the Near East. We utilize three perspectives: a systemic analysis that evaluates the transformation of the network from regional player to a global one based on the changes in the global media milieu and the introduction of new public spheres; a subsystemic analysis based on the nature of the media outlet's content relative to other news sources; and an individual level analysis assessing the goals of the network's owners and the influence they hope to project on the global scene. We argue that while Aljazeera was initially a "media rogue," providing a realistic lens on the atrocities of war, it has evolved over time due to the competitive constraints of social media as well as corporate desires to be a legitimate, "mainstream voice" on the global scene. Much has been written on the role that Aljazeera played in bringing about fundamental social changes in the Middle East. But very few scholars credit it with transforming the region into a new public sphere fertile enough for absorbing the new ideas transmitted by the global media advocating social and political freedoms and respect for human political and social rights. Indeed, Aljazeera was perhaps not the catalyst responsible for triggering the revolutions swepting the Arab World, but it has certainly been the fuel that has kept the flame for change burning. In the case of Libya, where social media is still in its infant stages, Aljazeera assumed the role of the primary protector and promoter of the Libyan revolution. Although Aljazeera went further than most in shedding light on the Libyan revolution and the atrocities committed by the Libyan regime, it was not something novel for the network. Since its inception in 1995, the network has been a kind of a "media rogue" in that it held back no punches in reporting news about the Middle East around the world as well as bringing news back to the region. And unlike so many other global networks that were bound by agreements, boards, or business norms to operate within prescribed parameters, Aljazeera had no restrictions on reporting on events outside of Qatar's borders. This was possible first because the network to provide a "no holds barred" view on the reality of military engagement. This alternative lens provided a different frame for understanding war efforts relative to the past conflicts (see Allen et al, 1994 on the Persian Gulf War; Jasperson & El-Kikhia, 2003; Aday et al, 2004). This "media rogue" role that Aljazeera played over the last ten years has been crucial in bringing about an awakening that could only result in the creation of the new public spheres from numerous and varied social instruments of communication. Indeed as far the Middle East is concerned, Aljazeera served as a temporary, transitional conduit, paving the way for the new alternative of social media and bringing its dramatic content to audiences in the Middle East. This was very clear in the revolutions of North Africa. Egypt saw a vanguard of young protesters adept at using the new instruments of communication. Protesters utilized new social media to keep their revolution alive. You-Tube, Twitter, e-mail, Paltalk, Skype, and other means of communication became favorite tools to mobilize the masses and keep the world aware of their demands and the government's response. However, very few Egyptians had the means or ability to utilize these means of communication. The majority had to rely on the Aljazeera, which in turn hooked in to the social media to keep abreast of constant changes and developments and packaged such news and images for its audience. A similar story was seen earlier in Tunisia where the use of social media was more prevalent than in Egypt. In the Libyan conflict, communication was wholly controlled by the government and after the apparent success of the social media in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan government began to tightly control the Internet and other means of communication as well as jam Aljazeera's satellite signal to Libya's population. The network was able to partially overcome that jamming by changing frequencies and satellites but the bigger task was to inform the public of the new frequencies of the station. That task was accomplished with the help of Arabs in the diaspora.. New social media brought information and a global awakening to every part of the Arab world. What is truly fascinating about Aljazeera is the fact that from 1995 until approximately 2009, just prior to the Arab Spring, it served as a primary communication channel in the Middle East, bringing graphic, uncensored reality to its audience. But that freedom of coverage cost it the ability to fully enter markets such as the United States where censorship is a precondition to going on the air. Further, new social media such as You-Tube, Twitter, and Paltalk have now replaced Aljazeera television. It can no longer show graphic images such photographs of dead bodies and mayhem without removing disturbing content, whereas these images can be shown freely on social media. Its role as "media rogue," "conduit" or "mainstream voice" has been tempered by the social and political contexts in which it operates.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 4:45:18 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 4:45:18 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-00840616, version 1



Mansour O. El-Kikhia, Amy E. Jasperson. The changing Face of Aljazeera - From "media Rogue" to "mainstream Voice" in Today's social media- dominated Global World. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840616⟩



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