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. 6, Issue 2-3, 2013), edited by Noureddine Miladi from the Qatar University. The issue focuses on the role and impact of traditional and new media in the Middle East region.

The articles are available to buy online.

Tao Papaioannou & Hugo Enrique Olivos: Cultural identity and social media in the Arab Spring: Collective goals in the use of Facebook in the Libyan context

While the use of social media in articulating citizens’ actions and social change in the Arab Spring movement has challenged more traditional participation and public deliberation practices, important questions are emerging about the potential of the networked sphere to contribute to the democratic process in these countries. This article aims to analyse the role of cultural identity in facilitating civic participation and empowering citizens through the use of Facebook in the Libyan context. A content analysis of posts within three months in 2012 on three Libyan Facebook pages is performed in order to identify collective goals shared among the participants and their use of Facebook in reference to these objectives. The results reveal that new cultural values based on human rights and political freedom, in particular participation in free elections, are disseminated via Facebook, highlighting Libya’s transition from an authoritarian regime towards democracy. Second, Facebook is used to serve these collective goals through promoting civic journalism, encouraging freedom of speech and facilitating participation in civic and political activities. Facebook also supports among Libyan citizens an inclusive discourse which recognizes equal representation of all regions in the country and its cultural and political significance in the emergence of a new democracy.

Jeneen Naji & Msughter Iwar: Simulated stereotypes turning the unreal real: An analysis of representations of the ‘Other’ in traditional media forms and digital games

We live in a world in which we constantly interact with distant cultures through media forms. The media, as the name implies, does not provide a direct link to these different cultures but barely mediates this interaction by presenting constructions of these cultures. This article explores the representation of Muslims in traditional and digital media forms. Specifically the representation of Muslims in two contemporary image constructors, news and games, is explored as well as the corresponding interconnectedness of these representations. Whilst there has been previous research into the representation of Muslims in news and similarly in video games, none compare and contrast the representational methods of these two image constructors in the way this article does. This article performs a comparative study of Muslim representation in these two seemingly unconnected forms towards the goal of identifying similarities and differences of representation using Muslims as a case study.

The digital realm is often purported as a pantheon for society with the freedom of digital publishing and communication allowing minorities to represent themselves and yet there is evidence to suggest that this is not the case. Existing content incorporates and reflects the general imagination of the Middle East prevalent among the western public as well as the audience’s expectation of particular genres – which have themselves been influenced by news media. What exists here is a complete cycle of ignorance reproducing false representation. This logic seems to dictate construction of representation in both forms.

Sahar Khamis & Abd El-Basit Ahmed Hashem Mahmoud: Facebooking the Egyptian elections: Framing the 2012 presidential race

While most previous research on cyberactivism in the Arab Spring, in general, and the Egyptian revolution, in particular, focused on analysing the role of social media in mobilizing the masses for political action, coordinating protest movements and rallying support for regime change. Other aspects of social media use for different purposes, such as online campaigning and framing the image of presidential candidates who are running for office and competing in elections after regime change, have been largely understudied. Similarly, most previous research which tackled framing focused on ‘news framing’, rather than ‘image framing’, or how different media can be used to create images and conceptions of different individuals or groups. Therefore, this study tries to fill these gaps in prior research through conducting a content analysis of the Facebook pages of the five top runners in the Egyptian presidential race of 2012 to find out how and why they used them to frame their own images online before, during and after the elections. In doing so, it revealed how this process was influenced by several factors, such as emerging events, and how it had distinct functions, such as asserting the unique identity of each candidate, juxtaposing and comparing the ‘self’ to the ‘Others’, and launching attacks on other candidates.

Viola Sarnelli: Tunisia, Egypt and the voices of the revolution in Al Jazeera English

Although satellite channels still have a central importance for the circulation of news in the Middle East and North Africa, the attention of many scholars has recently shifted towards the development of social media and their political use in the region. This article aims to focus on the convergence between the two media fields, specifically looking at how social networks’ contents have been selected and amplified by Al Jazeera English during the Tunisian and Egyptian 2011 revolutions. These issues are illustrated through the analysis of a selection of videos and posts published online by Al Jazeera English from 4 January to 11 February 2011.

Even though other media brands previously experimented with user-generated contents, the article argues that Al Jazeera English promoted a new configuration of ‘big’ and ‘small’ media in the MENA (Middle East and North African countries) region, based on the already well-established local media convergence.

The article also intends to explore the profile of the international public interacting with the channel’s website during the Egyptian Revolution. To do so, it analyses a selection of the comments left by the readers from 28 January to 11 February 2011, showing how during the revolts the channel became a reference point for a large international audience.

Inas A. Hamid El-Khoreiby: Towards the development of the voter’s choice behaviour model: Analysis of the Egyptian 2012 presidential elections

An important stream of research in the political marketing field has focused on modelling how voters know about political parties and candidates and how they make their voting decisions which are based on received information. This article aims to reinterpret and test Newman and Sheth’s (1985) model of voter’s choice behaviour that assumes that voters’ behaviour can be driven by a combination of one or more of seven distinct cognitive domains. The study includes another two factors that may influence the choice of a given candidate: the media’s role and the candidates’ election campaigns during the election period. The results indicate a negative correlation between voting and having information about the presidential candidates and their electoral programmes in general, and this may refer to Egyptians’ desire to exercise their political rights after the revolution, despite their lack of knowledge about candidates. The article argues that the role of the media and candidates’ campaigns changed during various stages of the election, as they had limited effect in influencing the intentions of voters to elect a specific candidate and they had a bigger role in changing the intentions of some voters, which consequently persuaded them to vote for another candidate.

Noha Mellor: Countering cultural hegemony: Audience research in the Arab world

The article provides a critical review of Arab scholarship on audience studies, focusing on the themes and different traditions adopted by Arab scholars, such as positivism versus cultural studies. Drawing on several examples of audience studies in the Arab world, I argue that this type of research has been influenced by the call to document and counter western cultural hegemony. While the majority of these studies quantitatively measure media consumption in terms of time used on these media and type of programmes watched, the underpinning assumption is the need to counter the negative impact of imported cultural programmes on Arab audiences, particularly youth. I argue that Arab researchers here are situated as experts detached from the audiences, thereby positioning themselves in a knowledge hierarchy above the subjects of their research. The review shows the implied view of Arab audiences as passive receivers of information, and potential victims of the recent technological innovation of communication.

Natalia Mielczarek: The 2011 World Press Photo: A study of a modern-day Hagar in Yemen through the prism of collective memory in Islam

This project offers historical and visual rhetorical analyses of the 2011 World Press Photo, arguing the award-winning image echoes one of the most central collective memories within Islam: that of Hagar, the mother of all Arabs. The article posits that the woman in the photo is the modern-day Hagar who exemplifies strength, courage and independence, much like her predecessor millennia ago. In that, the woman, as captured in the winning image, creates a countermemory to the dominant collective memory of a Muslim woman in Yemen, who has emerged over the years as dominated by men and in need of protection. The analysis puts the 2011 World Press Photo within the Islam-centric context of interpretation, suggesting that looking at it only through the Christian-centred perspective, as was done in the West, robs the image of its polysemic qualities.

Mohamad Hamas Elmasry: Islam in the West: A discourse analysis of American and British Muslim web content

This study sought to identify prominent discourses on four Islamic websites produced in the United States and Britain. The analysis looked specifically for discourses about identity, the religious ‘other’ and terrorism. The four Muslim organizations examined here – the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the UK Islamic Mission (UKIM) – used the Web to construct discourses that describe them as authentically Islamic, in service to Muslims, in cooperation with non-Muslims and enemies of terrorism. The Muslim-produced web content studied here offers up a set of discourses that can be considered counter-hegemonic insofar as they challenge discursive formations that are dominant in both entertainment and news media. For instance, rather than associate Islam with terrorism, the sites denounce it in strong terms and distance the religion from the crime.

Aliyu Odamah Musa & Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u: Conflict reporting and parachute journalism in Africa: A study of CNN and Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Boko Haram insurgency

The violent insurgence in Northern Nigeria linked to the group ‘Jama’atu Ahlussunna Lidda’wati wal Jihad’, also known as ‘Boko Haram’, has since its outbreak in July 2009 attracted a lot of international media attention. Two notable media channels that have consistently reported it are CNN and Al Jazeera English. By applying the critical discourse analysis technique this article focuses on how these reputable media organizations often rely on parachute reporting – whereby correspondents are only dispatched to the scene of the conflict from their offices or beats abroad – and the consequences. This tradition has a tendency to raise questions on the credibility of the reports as the correspondents’ access to local sources is hindered and their understanding of the local terrain and context of the conflict could be problematic. This article, therefore, postulates that CNN and Al Jazeera reportage of the Boko Haram conflict using reporters not fully based in the affected areas leads to misunderstanding and misreporting the crisis and misinforming the audience. This type of reporting is also found to lead to inadvertent polarization of the conflict due to the use of assumptions and stereotypes in news reporting, which questions the media’s role as neutral observers/reporters of the conflict.

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