BCfm Radio in UK Discusses Citizen Media’s Role in the Middle East Uprisings
By Iqbal Tamimi
Clearly the latest events of the uprisings in the Middle East and the fact that the governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya censored all non state media and disrupted the Internet and deliberately disabled the mobile phoning systems during such important events means that these systems had shameful things they wanted to hide from the international community. The Tunisian authorities for example allegedly carried out phishing operations to take control of user passwords and check online criticism. Both state and non-state websites were hacked and Ben Ali fired the country's communications minister, Osama Romdhani, in what was claimed to be a government reshuffle after saying that the violence was manipulated by foreign media and hurt the country's image. The Western mainstream media on the other hand provided less coverage and less sympathetic coverage to the protests relative to Iranian protests and China's censorship. For example, the US government which intervened heavily in Iran, approving circumvention technology for export and famously asking Twitter to halt updates during a critical time period has not made any similar public overtures toward Tunisia, and the French mainstream media’s management of the crisis was a notable silence.
The way the journalists were harassed during the demonstrations and prevented from doing their jobs during the uprisings gave the opportunity to all citizens to become journalists through social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, telling their stories through whatever means of communication available and find ways to circumvent the communication blockade enforced. Consequently, for the first time ever, the two leading Arab news television stations, Aljazeera and Al arabiya were competing on encouraging and almost begging their audiences to offer them their news materials by contacting them directly, requesting of them to email them, call or text them to update their news websites. Both television stations created new emails to receive the uprisings’ news from the citizens. At such stage, the role of the television stations became only of a mediator or a redistribute of the citizen’s news, especially after Aljazeera journalists were banned from covering the events in Egypt and their permits were withdrawn by the authorities in Egypt.
It was clear during the coverage that Al arabiya Channel was taking sides with the Egyptian leader Mubarak, especially during the first few days of the uprising, trying to play a calming role hoping that the dust will settle soon and the revolution will be put to bed especially that everyone in the Middle East believed the illusion that no way USA will abandon its number one ally, Mr Mubarak. Aljazera Arabic on the other hand skipped its supposedly professional line, showing some bias when its rhetoric became emotional and biased against the Arab political systems, charging the people indirectly against their leaderships through their choice of words and revolutionary old songs that accompanied its promos, making Aljazeera Arabic a participant and a partner in the revolution and not a neutral source of news.
Surely what is going on in the Middle East is not a minor change that will affect only local Arab states and Arab populations. Especially with huge amounts of investments and interests shared between Arab states and Western countries. This is why almost all media outlets around the world and especially in UK were following closely what was going on. Most of all when there are British citizens who were still stranded in Libya in the middle of the ciaos, fear and uncertainties, while the British Prime Minister was more interested in another mission, busy in his own tour to the Middle East, trying to convince the Arab states to buy more arms from the UK.
I was invited by BCfm Radio in Bristol to participate in a discussion about different issues related to what is going on in the Middle East. BCfm Radio has been awarded the Radio Academy Station Award of the year for the South West. I was not surprised that The Radio Academy Gold was awarded for a community radio such as BCfm for the best station in the South West, which makes it doing better than the gigantic BBC. BCfm is highlighting wider issues and concerns that interest all the citizens including the minorities such as Arabs and Muslims in UK, besides involving all the citizens in its shows focussing on educating the average citizen on current affairs. One of their successful shows is Friday Drivetime, a political show produced and presented by the brilliant broadcaster Tony Gosling, the recurrent guest on a number of television stations. The show is co presented by the fabulous Martin Summers.
You can hear the second part of their last show aired Friday Febryary 25, 2011 on this link, after the 2 minutes news summery.
Clearly, the reasons for the uprisings in the Middle East are due to the economic crisis and the unbearable social injustices, the securitization of social and political issues and most of all it is due to the unprecedented level of corruption and the organized rapt of national resources by kleptocracies.
Many say that amongst the triggers of these revolts were due to the Wiki Leaks reports that used extreme words to describe Arab leaders such as, mafias and predatory governments, in cables written by professional foreign diplomats, thus encouraging the Arab publics to criticize their governments, especially when the professional foreign diplomats used expressions in their cables that only radical opposition activists would use. Sending messages that would refute any beliefs that change can happen gradually or from the top. In short, Wiki Leaks have raised the threshold of accusations against those leaders by criminalizing their behaviour.
Citizen media documented breaches of human rights, captured historical moments, exposed satirical and creative skills of the masses during a tough time, proved to be able to create its own platforms of self expression and becoming inventive and able to circumvent all the efforts to sensor the news or hijack their whispers that proved to become a clear united roar of triumph.
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