Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Newsonomics: Here are 10 storylines we’ll be talking about into 2017
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 14, 2011, 11 a.m.

From Nieman Reports: How social media has challenged old media in the Middle East

York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writes about how the role of Facebook and Twitter in spreading information continues to evolve after the Arab Spring.

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with their Fall 2011 issue, “Cold Case Reporting,” which focuses on process of revisiting old investigations to tell new stories. Over the next few days, we’ll highlight a few stories from the issue — but go read the whole thing. In this piece, Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation — and until recently of Harvard’s Berkman Center — writes about how Facebook and Twitter have filled a vacuum left by traditional media in the Arab world.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, a vigorous debate is taking shape. While Facebook and Twitter are recognized broadly for playing a pivotal role in broadcasting information from inside the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, views differ on the fit they will — or should — have in territory that has been the traditional reserve of journalists.

Throughout the Arab region, web forums — general and themed — have long served as hosts for civic discussion. These online spaces held the place of social media before global sites like Facebook and Twitter came along. From 2004 to 2007, when I lived in Morocco, Facebook was nascent, still closed off to users outside certain networks, and Twitter, launched in 2006, had not yet emerged. Blogs were still new, so much so that the Moroccan blogosphere, now a force to be reckoned with, consisted of just a handful of largely disconnected writers posting in diary style, dipping briefly into politics or sports. It was Yabiladi, Bladi, and others — Morocco’s forums — that were sources of unreported news, discussion and social commentary.

Morocco is not a dictatorship like Tunisia was before its revolution or as Syria remains today. It is a parliamentary monarchy with democratic norms followed to varying degrees, depending on the issue at hand. Its press is considerably freer than that of its neighbors in the region, with only a few off-limits subjects such as Islam, the king, and the Western Sahara, to name a few. Yet a few journalists there do broach even the most taboo subjects, sometimes to the detriment or demise of their careers.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     Sept. 14, 2011, 11 a.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: Here are 10 storylines we’ll be talking about into 2017
The next generations of Murdochs and Sulzbergers step up, two newspaper chains chart the consolidation of the industry, and a Trump-driven shift in straight news reporting.
Connecting science with society, Undark hopes to help elevate the standards for science journalism
“Science influences our lives in countless ways every day, and as science journalists, if we don’t make that connection really clear, we’re not doing our jobs.”
Can you make learning about gerrymandering fun? Fusion teamed with mobile gaming devs to try
“We wanted to experiment with how we could use game play and video games within journalism.”