Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research
Fig. 1. Courtesy of the Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research.

The Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research released its new issue (Vol. 5, Issue 1, 2012), edited by Noureddine Miladi from  the Qatar University.

The articles are available to buy online.

Abdallah Hidri: The fifth estate: Media and ethics

This article deals with new and social media as a fifth power influencing the public sphere and public opinion. However, in order to understand the concept of ‘fifth power’ we need first to deconstruct and analyze the elements of the concept of ‘fourth power’ that has been connected to traditional media. The new and social media, as an open and free communication activity over the Internet, can be considered today as (an effective) mechanism to monitor and watch over the ‘fourth power’. It appears that the new and social media construct social reality utilizing techniques and a style that do not adhere to the format, rules and canon of traditional media. It also seems that those who possess a certain level of digital knowledge are capable of constructing reality through reproducing the dominant ideology in society – a function that was exclusive to traditional media in the past. The role of the new and social media as a ‘fifth power’ raises numerous problems connected to communication ethics. In this sense, what type of ethics should govern this new communication order? And is it possible to talk of a ‘fifth power’ devoid of any sort of communication ethics?

Rolf Halse: The Muslim-American neighbour as terrorist: The representation of a Muslim family in 24

Academic literature on movies and TV serials produced in Hollywood documents that Muslim and Arab characters are often represented in a stereotypical and negative manner. The TV serial 24 doesn’t seem to be an exception. 24 has been accused by Muslim interest groups in the United States and by prominent people with Muslim background for stereotyping Muslims. This article sets out to investigate whether this accusation is well founded by analysing how a Muslim family, living in Los Angeles as a sleeping terror cell, is represented in the serial. A textual analysis uncovers a change in the Muslim stereotype in US TV entertainment post-9/11 having to do with the stereotype’s relocalization. The new Muslim stereotype seems to resemble the average American’s appearance, which, in effect, redefines ‘the Muslim other’; on the outside it differs from the traditional Muslim stereotype, but within, in its character it is true to type.

Maha Bashri, Sara Netzley & Amy Greiner: Facebook revolutions: Transitions in the Arab world, transitions in media coverage? A comparative analysis of CNN and Al Jazeera English’s online coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions

This study compared how CNN online and Al Jazeera English online covered the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt through their use of journalistic sources and channels. Sigal’s source theory (1973) provided the theoretical framework for the study. A content analysis was conducted examining a total of 941 sources in 70 news stories from the two outlets. Findings show that CNN resorted to the use of American officials and routine channels to report on the uprisings. In comparison,Al Jazeera English mostly used Tunisian and Egyptian citizens as sources as well as enterprise channels. The use of social media by Tunisian and Egyptian activists in the uprisings led the researchers to believe that there would be an extensive use of informal channels in both outlets, but that was not the case. Future studies should examine CNN and Al Jazeera English’s coverage of ‘neutral events’ where no one outlet has a cultural or linguistic advantage.

Mohammed el-Nawawy & Sahar Khamis: Divergent identities in the virtual Islamic public sphere: A case study of the English discussion forum ‘Islamonline’

This study utilizes a textual analysis of selected threads from the English discussion forum of one of the most popular Islamic websites, Islamonline (www.Islamonline.net), to explore the potential impact of the new Islamic virtual public sphere and the re-configuration of the ‘virtual umma’ on the creation of divergent identities online. The study also assesses whether the discourses and deliberations taking place in the English discussion forum of Islamonline.net exemplify an ideal Habermasian public sphere. The findings of this study indicate that there is a gap between the ‘self’ and the ‘Other’ in most of the analyzed threads. Participants in most threads did not show much willingness to engage in what Habermas calls ‘communicative action’ by failing to explain their points of view in a rational way. Rather, most participants engaged in what Habermas described as ‘strategic action’ by manoeuvring their way in the argument and trying to forcefully change the positions or the beliefs of the other side. However, despite the fact that the majority of the analyzed threads reflect a highly polemic discourse which drifts away from the ideal Habermasian public sphere, the article does not nullify the value of Habermas’s model as a viable theoretical framework. Rather, it engages in a critical discussion of why and how it may or may not be applicable in certain situations and proposes other possible theoretical alternatives.

Mustafa Mencutekin: And the Golden Bear goes to Grbavica: An opus of manipulation

Among the genres of cinematography, the historical film holds a considerably significantplace in terms of indispensable documental features. The particular challenge pertaining to the genre offers a dichotomy: either to stand behind the historical reality or to present something exceeding it. In the history of historical films, numerous works illustrate the inability of directors to meet its challenges. If deliberation is of concern, then those failures can be interpreted as ulterior motives. The paradoxically applauded and internationally awarded film Grbavica (dir. Jasmina Zbanic) cannot rid itself of the common flaws specific to the genre. The film seems to be a portrait of a particular war in the Balkans and its aftermath, but the director uses all the instruments of the art of cinematography to make the audience misread the recent history of the Balkans. Focusing on the story of two female victims and minimizing the male characters and the atrocity they committed, Grbavica deserves to be identifi d as a film of political manipulation, or distortion of historical facts. This commemorable endeavour for a manipulative visualization is thoroughly observed during the film, due to the intentional absence of many factual incidents and data that especially constitute conclusive evidence against Serbians in particular and European countries in general.

Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u: Representation of Boko Haram discourses in the British broadsheets

The Boko Haram uprising in which certain Muslim groups ‘opposed’ to western education in northern Nigeria clashed with security forces contributes to the discourses about Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. Such discourses were carried by the foreign media, and their coverage of the incident has contributed to the perception of Islam in Nigeria among other countries. This article is a study of the coverage of the crisis as reported by two leading broadsheet newspapers in Britain, The Guardian and The Telegraph. These two newspapers represent two ideological divides in British society, The Guardian representing the centre-left and The Telegraph representing the centre-right. Using critical discourse analysis, I examine how these two newspapers construct the discourses of the Boko Haram incident, and find out whether the ideological divide influenced the way Islam and Muslims in Nigeria are represented in these newspapers, which have large readership in Britain. The result shows that there is no difference in the way the two newspapers represent the discourses of Boko Haram. I conclude that the way western media represents Islam and Muslims, anti-Islam has substituted anti-communism as the fifth filter in the propaganda model suggested by Herman and Chomsky.

The latest issue of the Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research is available here.