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August 16 2012

14:00

Did Global Voices Use Diverse Sources on Twitter for Arab Spring Coverage?

Citizen journalism and social media have become major sources for the news, especially after the Arab uprisings of early 2011. From Al Jazeera Stream and NPR's Andy Carvin to the Guardian's "Three Pigs" advertisement, news organizations recognize that journalism is just one part of a broader ecosystem of online conversation. At the most basic level, journalists are following social media for breaking news and citizen perspectives. As a result, designers are rushing to build systems like Ushahidi's SwiftRiver to filter and verify citizen media.

Audience analytics and source verification only paint part of the picture. While upcoming technologies will help newsrooms understand their readers and better use citizen sources, we remain blind to the way the news is used in turn by citizen sources to gain credibility and spread ideas. That's a loss for two reasons. Firstly, it opens newsrooms up to embarrassing forms of media manipulation. Most importantly, we're analytically blind to one of bloggers' and citizen journalists' greatest incentives: attention.

Re-imagining media representation

For my MIT Media Lab master's thesis, I'm trying to re-imagine how we think about media representation in online media ecosystems. Over the next year, my main focus will be gender in the media. But this summer, for a talk at the Global Voices Summit in Nairobi, I developed a visualization of media representation in Global Voices, which has been reporting on citizen media far longer than most news organizations.

(I'm hoping the following analysis of Global Voices convinces you that tracking media representation is exciting and important. If your news organization is interested in developing these kinds of metrics, or if you're a Global Voices editor trying to understand whose voices you amplify, I would love to hear from you. Contact me on Twitter at @natematias or at natematias@gmail.com.)

Media Representation in Global Voices: Egypt and Libya

My starting questions were simple: Whose voices (from Twitter) were most cited in Global Voices' coverage of the Arab uprisings, and how diverse were those voices? Was Global Voices just amplifying the ideas of a few people, or were they including a broad range of perspectives? Global Voices was generous enough to share its entire English archive going back to 2004, and I built a data visualization tool for exploring those questions across time and sections:

globalvoices.jpg

Let's start with Egypt. (Click to load the Egypt visualization.) Global Voices has been covering Egypt since its early days. The first major spike in coverage occurred in February 2007 when blogger Kareem Amer was sentenced to prison for things he said on his blog. The next spike in coverage, in February 2009, occurred in response to the Cairo bombing. The largest spike in Egypt coverage starts at the end of January 2011 in response to protests in Tahrir Square and is sustained over the next few weeks. Notice that while Global Voices did quote Twitter from time to time (citing 68 unique Twitter accounts the week of the Cairo bombing), the diversity of Twitter citation grew dramatically during the Egyptian uprising -- and actually remained consistently higher thereafter.

Tracking twitter citations

Why was Global Voices citing Twitter? By sorting articles by Twitter citation in my visualization, it's possible to look at the posts which cite the greatest number of unique Twitter accounts. Some posts reported breaking news from Tahrir, quoting sources from Twitter. Others report on viral political hashtag jokes, a popular format for Global Voices posts. Not all posts cite Egyptian sources. This post on the global response to Egyptian uprising shares tweets from around the world.

twitteraccounts.jpg

By tracking Twitter citation in Global Voices, we're also able to ask: Whose voices was GlobalVoices amplifying? Citation in blogs and the news can give a source exposure, credibility, and a growing audience.

In the Egypt section, the most cited Twitter source was Alaa Abd El Fattah, an Egyptian blogger, software developer, and activist. One of the last times he was cited in Global Voices was in reference to his month-long imprisonment in November 2011.

Although Alaa is prominent, Global Voices relied on hundreds of other sources. The Egypt section cites 1,646 Twitter accounts, and @alaa himself appears alongside 368 other accounts.

One of those accounts is that of Sultan al-Qassemi, who lives in Sharjah in the UAE, and who translated arabic Tweets into English throughout the Arab uprisings. @sultanalqassemi is the fourth most cited account in Global Voices Egypt, but that accounts for only 28 posts out of the 65 where he is mentioned. This is very different from Alaa, who is cited primarily just within the Egypt section.

sultan.jpg

Let's look at other sections where Sultan al-Qassemi is cited in Global Voices. Consider, for example, the Libya section, where he appears in 18 posts. (Click to load the Libya visualization.) Qassemi is cited exactly the same number of times as the account @ChangeInLibya, a more Libya-focused Twitter account. Here, non-Libyan voices have been more prominent: Three out of the five most cited Twitter accounts (Sultan al-Qassemi, NPR's Andy Carvin, and the Dubai-based Iyad El-Baghdadi) aren't Libyan accounts. Nevertheless, all three of those accounts were providing useful information: Qassemi reported on sources in Libya; Andy Carvin was quoting and retweeting other sources, and El-Baghdadi was creating situation maps and posting them online. With Libya's Internet mostly shut down from March to August, it's unsurprising to see more outside commentary than we saw in the Egypt section.

globalvoiceslibya.jpg

Where Do We Go From Here?

This very simple demo shows the power of tracking source diversity, source popularity, and the breadth of topics that a single source is quoted on. I'm excited about taking the project further, to look at:

  • Comparing sources used by different media outlets
  • Auto-following sources quoted by a publication, as a way for journalists to find experts, and for audiences to connect with voices mentioned in the media
  • Tracking and detecting media manipulators
  • Developing metrics for source diversity, and developing tools to help journalists find the right variety of sources
  • Journalist and news bias detection, through source analysis
  • Comparing the effectiveness of closed source databases like the Public Insight Network and Help a Reporter Out to open ecosystems like Twitter, Facebook, and online comments. Do source databases genuinely broaden the conversation, or are they just a faster pipeline for PR machines?
  • Tracking the role of media exposure on the popularity and readership of social media accounts

Still Interested?

I'm sure you can think of another dozen ideas. If you're interested in continuing the conversation, try out my Global Voices Twitter Citation Viewer (tutorial here), add a comment below, and email me at natematias@gmail.com.

Nathan develops technologies for media analytics, community information, and creative learning at the MIT Center for Civic Media, where he is a Research Assistant. Before MIT, Nathan worked in UK startups, developing technologies used by millions of people worldwide. He also helped start the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing center in East London. Nathan was a Davies-Jackson Scholar at the University of Cambridge from 2006-2008.

This post originally appeared on the MIT Center for Civic Media blog.

May 05 2012

10:58

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decries growing killings of journalists

DOHA :: "We have to protect journalists in democratic countries first of all. There are tens of countries which are democratic and do not respect the law as they should do," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a UN event on press freedom organized by France and Greece. Reporters Without Borders said that more than 280 journalists and bloggers have been imprisoned this year, including 32 in Eritrea, 30 in China and 27 in Iran and 14 in Syria. But five have been detained in Azerbaijan, which is the UN Security Council president for May. Ban and press freedom groups have sought to stress the role of the media, and particularly the new social media, in covering the uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Syria over the past 18 months.

Continue to read www.dc4mf.org

April 21 2012

18:35

Study points to prominence of activists in Andy Carvin coverage of Arab Spring

Here’s the media release on the research I presented at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at UT Austin on Saturday, April 21:

A new study shows how far NPR’s Andy Carvin, known as “the man who tweets revolutions,” favoured the voice of protesters in his reporting on Twitter of the Arab Spring.

The rigorous analysis of more than 5,000 tweets found that Carvin’s feed gave higher priority to the messages from citizens in repressive societies who were documenting and expressing their desires for social change on Twitter.

During key periods of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings in early 2011, just under half of the messages on his Twitter stream came from activists and bloggers (48.3%), even though they only made up a quarter of his sources (26.4%).

Carvin also relied mainstream media journalists as sources. While they made up about a quarter of his sources (26.7%), journalists accounted for 29.4% of tweets.

The study, “Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolution” by academics in Canada and the U.S., points to the dramatic impact social media is having on journalism and the ways news is being reported.

University of British Columbia professor and lead author Alfred Hermida said: “Our findings suggest a new style of near real-time reporting where journalists tap into social media to include a broader range of voices in the news.”

“The prominence of what many may consider to be rebel voices raises questions about traditional journalistic approaches to balance and objectivity.”

Carvin, a social media strategist for U.S. public service radio broadcaster NPR, rose to prominence during the uprisings in the Middle East for his mastery of aggregating and verifying real-time news on Twitter.

The study shows how his approach to sourcing marks a break with established news practices. Traditionally, journalists cite a small number of sources who hold institutional positions of power and authority, such as government officials, police or business leaders. Journalists rely on these elite sources, shaping what news gets reported and how it is reported.

News coverage quoting ordinary people still fills only a small part of the news. When it comes to covering protests, journalists tend to cite on officials and police, and tend to discredit activists.

The researchers analysed tweets from two periods in 2011, identifying and categorizing Carvin’s top sources (322 in all). The first, from January 12 to January 19, covered the major portion of Tunisian demonstrations leading to the fall of President Ben Ali. The second, from January 24 to February 13, covered the Egyptian protests and subsequent resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

University of Minnesota professor Seth C. Lewis, a co-author on the study, said: “This research focuses on the work of a single person, but it’s a key case study for understanding larger transformations occurring as journalism evolves through social media.”

The study is authored by Alfred Hermida from the University of British Columbia, and Seth C. Lewis and Rodrigo Zamith from the University of Minnesota.

Note to editors:

The results of the study will be presented on Saturday, April 21, at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at 11:15 a.m. CDT (12.15 p.m. EDT). A live video stream of the conference will be available on the symposium website.

The abstract for the paper, “Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin’s Sources During the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions,” is available from the symposium website on Friday, April 20.

About the researchers:

Alfred Hermida is an award-winning associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, Canada. His research focuses on social media and emerging genres of journalism. An online news pioneer, he was a founding news editor of BBCNews.com and was a BBC correspondent in the Middle East. He co-authored Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers and is currently working on his second book on the impact of social media on the news.

Contact: Alfred.Hermida@ubc.ca - Twitter: @hermida

Seth C. Lewis, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. His research on the changing nature of journalism in the digital era has received several top-paper awards and has been published in leading academic journals. He co-edited two editions of The Future of News: An Agenda of Perspectives, and he is affiliated with Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Previously, he was an editor at The Miami Herald and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Spain.

Contact: sclewis@umn.edu - Twitter: @sethclewis

Rodrigo Zamith is a doctoral student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. His primary research interest is in the interplay between media, public opinion, and policymaking, with a focus on foreign affairs. He has previously worked as reporter at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Contact: zamit001@umn.edu

April 15 2012

19:20

Latest citizen journalist app: Signal created by Mark Malkoun, Lebanese entrepreneur

The Next Web :: It is only fitting that the latest citizen journalist app, Signal, is coming right out of the Middle East, courtesy of Lebanese entrepreneur, Mark Malkoun. No area in the world has highlighted the effect of citizen journalism more effectively, this past year, than this region. In Syria, Bambuser videos were a source of footage for mainstream media including the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, leading to the app being blocked in the country, and in Egypt, Twitter was used to disseminate information from the heart of Tahrir Square at the height of the uprising. Events in the region were part of Mark’s drive to create the app.

Continue to read Nancy Messieh, thenextweb.com

April 13 2012

13:50

18DaysInEgypt: Crowdsourcing a Story of Revolution

In the 18 days of Egypt's uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011 and ended with the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, thousands of Egyptians turned to their cell phones, digital cameras or social media sites to document the events as they were unfolding in Cairo and across the country.

Tapping into this wealth of material, American documentary filmmaker and journalist Jigar Mehta co-founded 18DaysInEgypt, a crowd-sourced interactive documentary project aimed at capturing the history of the revolution in Egypt. A former video journalist with The New York Times where he contributed to innovative collaborative media projects, Mehta was awarded a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for 18DaysInEgypt and currently splits his time between the U.S. and Egypt.



18DaysInEgypt, a collaborative documentary project about the revolution in Egypt.


In his new capacity as digital entrepreneur, Mehta explains in a Q&A why he considers 18DaysInEgypt a pioneering storytelling platform.

Q: What triggered the idea to create 18DaysInEgypt?


Jigar Mehta: It was around day 17 of the Egyptian revolution. Just like many others, I was following the events via social media to know what was happening in real time. It was overwhelming to see masses of Egyptians taking to the streets in their remarkable bid for freedom, and ousting a leader so quickly. It wasn't Al Jazeera or CNN telling me what was happening; it was the people who were there filming on their cell phones, taking pictures, texting, tweeting, Facebooking, live streaming on YouTube.That's when I had my original inspiration: What would it be like to make a film using the media that people generated during those 18 days to tell their stories?

As 18DaysInEgypt kicked off, my team and I realized that the raw material created by Egyptians, whether a tweet, a photo or a video, was just the beginning of the storytelling process. The core part of the project has been to retrieve these snippets of moments captured by the people on location, collect their thousands of stories and make them available on our website, both in English and in Arabic.


image
18 Days in Egypt fellows and tech team. (IΛ is 18 in Arabic.)

Source: 18DaysInEgypt Kickstarter project


Who is involved in the project?


JM: My business partner Yasmin Elayat, a software developer based in Cairo, and I are the co-creators. We teamed up with documentary producer Hugo Soskin to work on the story structure and with Emerge Technology, an Egypt-based software development company. We worked on building the online collaborative storytelling platform, GroupStream. In addition, we started a fellowship program targeted at young Egyptian university graduates. There are currently six fellows who are helping us to collect and post stories on the website, but also to share media through their networks, and encourage other people to contribute with their own stories.

The people who are registering on the website right now are definitely younger people, social media savvy users, bloggers. The stories are, nevertheless, representative of a larger section of the population because young users may post stories relating to their parents, or other, elderly, family members.

What is innovative about 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: First, we introduced something that is not a one-off initiative. Unlike a traditional linear documentary, this project is rather an open, interactive space. Second, this initiative removes the curator in that the person who created the media is the one who shares the story in the way he or she wanted to tell it.

We designed a user-friendly website that guides people through the process of creating a story by enabling them to upload and store media content, produced from events recorded in real time. The stories can then be shared and accessed by everyone now and in the future.

We look at 18DaysInEgypt as a "sandbox" to experiment and gain understanding in how people can tell stories as a group and experience that journey, which is a very important part of the storytelling.



2011 Knight Fellow Jigar Mehta explains what motivated him to set out to help Egyptians capture and preserve the media they had created during the revolution.


What is the project's main appeal?

JM: I think it is its ability to show how stories are connected. We provide a place to create a story or timeline by pulling together all the media fragments from several sites and services. By adding date tags and map location, we are able to help users connect individual stories.

Besides, the site is updated every day as new features are introduced. We recently changed how we share stories: You can now like a story directly from the site's main page.

What topics are covered in the stories?


JM: The stories cover a broad variety of topics and events such as the football match tragedy in Port Said stadium, women's day, humor of Egyptian protesters, music and graffiti art inspired by the revolutionary struggle.

How has the Egyptian public responded to 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: Although 18DaysInEgypt started off as a project about the 18 days, we built the website in a way that it presents the history of the ongoing revolution. There are two interesting correlations that we have noticed in the response to our initiative. We launched the website on January 19 of this year and two weeks later, when the Port Said football disaster took place, we saw an incredible online traffic in people both registering and consuming present day stories. Furthermore, we have clearly seen a steady monthly increase in returning visitors, which is a good indication that people are wanting more.

Will the scope of the project evolve beyond the revolution? Will it expand geographically?


JM: Sure. We developed a project that really thinks in line with the way the web works; we do see the potential in this for many types of stories to be told in a new, open way. What we have seen since last year, through events such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the riots in the U.K., is that people first want to see raw media elements created from the frontline (photos, tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos) before going to traditional media. So a platform that allows storytelling in the rawest form is very powerful.

Our major plan for the next few months is to expand outside Cairo. We recently raised funds through Kickstarter, and soon we will have fellows in Luxor, Aswan, Suez, Alexandria, Port Said, and other parts of Egypt.

The biggest challenge remains the gathering of thousands of stories to contribute to Egypt's big story.


image

How do you go about promoting the initiative?


JM: Our fellowship program is playing a big part in our promotional efforts. We organized a mass launch party in Tahrir Square last February 19, when the project successfully raised its funding goal. We are regularly calling on institutional sponsors and partners to support us. Not only are we feeding the site with rich content, we are also training the next generation of Egyptian journalists to gather and craft stories through the fellowship program.

We are actively involving the local press, both in English and Arabic language. We are relying on our personal networks, which is the most effective way to engage with communities and encourage more people to use the website and tell their stories.

What is your long-term vision for 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: We want to wrap up the project at some point. Perhaps after the presidential elections on May 23- 24, we will decide to stop collecting stories, then we can start working on what we call the "experience": how to take all the collected stories and present them in a digestible format for someone who, in years ahead, would like to learn about the Egyptian revolution. This is a way to make history come alive.

Alessandra Bajec, Italian/French bilingual, holds a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Between June 2010 and May 2011, she lived in Palestine, where she made her first steps as a freelance journalist. During that time, she reported on news events, conducting interviews and writing feature stories. She also contributed as English radio newscaster to Voice of An-Najah (An-Najah University). Her articles have appeared in Palestinian newswires such as the PNN, IMEMC, and The Palestine Telegraph. Now based in London, she is establishing herself as a regular freelance journalist. Her interests include Palestine, the Middle East, independent journalism, peace, human rights, and international travel.


ejc-logo small.jpgThis piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

13:15

18DaysInEgypt: Crowdsourcing a Story of Revolution

In the 18 days of Egypt's uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011 and ended with the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, thousands of Egyptians turned to their cell phones, digital cameras or social media sites to document the events as they were unfolding in Cairo and across the country.

Tapping into this wealth of material, American documentary filmmaker and journalist Jigar Mehta co-founded 18DaysInEgypt, a crowd-sourced interactive documentary project aimed at capturing the history of the revolution in Egypt. A former video journalist with The New York Times where he contributed to innovative collaborative media projects, Mehta was awarded a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for 18DaysInEgypt and currently splits his time between the U.S. and Egypt.



18DaysInEgypt, a collaborative documentary project about the revolution in Egypt.


In his new capacity as digital entrepreneur, Mehta explains in a Q&A why he considers 18DaysInEgypt a pioneering storytelling platform.

Q: What triggered the idea to create 18DaysInEgypt?


Jigar Mehta: It was around day 17 of the Egyptian revolution. Just like many others, I was following the events via social media to know what was happening in real time. It was overwhelming to see masses of Egyptians taking to the streets in their remarkable bid for freedom, and ousting a leader so quickly. It wasn't Al Jazeera or CNN telling me what was happening; it was the people who were there filming on their cell phones, taking pictures, texting, tweeting, Facebooking, live streaming on YouTube.That's when I had my original inspiration: What would it be like to make a film using the media that people generated during those 18 days to tell their stories?

As 18DaysInEgypt kicked off, my team and I realized that the raw material created by Egyptians, whether a tweet, a photo or a video, was just the beginning of the storytelling process. The core part of the project has been to retrieve these snippets of moments captured by the people on location, collect their thousands of stories and make them available on our website, both in English and in Arabic.


image
18 Days in Egypt fellows and tech team. (IΛ is 18 in Arabic.)

Source: 18DaysInEgypt Kickstarter project


Who is involved in the project?


JM: My business partner Yasmin Elayat, a software developer based in Cairo, and I are the co-creators. We teamed up with documentary producer Hugo Soskin to work on the story structure and with Emerge Technology, an Egypt-based software development company. We worked on building the online collaborative storytelling platform, GroupStream. In addition, we started a fellowship program targeted at young Egyptian university graduates. There are currently six fellows who are helping us to collect and post stories on the website, but also to share media through their networks, and encourage other people to contribute with their own stories.

The people who are registering on the website right now are definitely younger people, social media savvy users, bloggers. The stories are, nevertheless, representative of a larger section of the population because young users may post stories relating to their parents, or other, elderly, family members.

What is innovative about 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: First, we introduced something that is not a one-off initiative. Unlike a traditional linear documentary, this project is rather an open, interactive space. Second, this initiative removes the curator in that the person who created the media is the one who shares the story in the way he or she wanted to tell it.

We designed a user-friendly website that guides people through the process of creating a story by enabling them to upload and store media content, produced from events recorded in real time. The stories can then be shared and accessed by everyone now and in the future.

We look at 18DaysInEgypt as a "sandbox" to experiment and gain understanding in how people can tell stories as a group and experience that journey, which is a very important part of the storytelling.



2011 Knight Fellow Jigar Mehta explains what motivated him to set out to help Egyptians capture and preserve the media they had created during the revolution.


What is the project's main appeal?

JM: I think it is its ability to show how stories are connected. We provide a place to create a story or timeline by pulling together all the media fragments from several sites and services. By adding date tags and map location, we are able to help users connect individual stories.

Besides, the site is updated every day as new features are introduced. We recently changed how we share stories: You can now like a story directly from the site's main page.

What topics are covered in the stories?


JM: The stories cover a broad variety of topics and events such as the football match tragedy in Port Said stadium, women's day, humor of Egyptian protesters, music and graffiti art inspired by the revolutionary struggle.

How has the Egyptian public responded to 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: Although 18DaysInEgypt started off as a project about the 18 days, we built the website in a way that it presents the history of the ongoing revolution. There are two interesting correlations that we have noticed in the response to our initiative. We launched the website on January 19 of this year and two weeks later, when the Port Said football disaster took place, we saw an incredible online traffic in people both registering and consuming present day stories. Furthermore, we have clearly seen a steady monthly increase in returning visitors, which is a good indication that people are wanting more.

Will the scope of the project evolve beyond the revolution? Will it expand geographically?


JM: Sure. We developed a project that really thinks in line with the way the web works; we do see the potential in this for many types of stories to be told in a new, open way. What we have seen since last year, through events such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the riots in the U.K., is that people first want to see raw media elements created from the frontline (photos, tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos) before going to traditional media. So a platform that allows storytelling in the rawest form is very powerful.

Our major plan for the next few months is to expand outside Cairo. We recently raised funds through Kickstarter, and soon we will have fellows in Luxor, Aswan, Suez, Alexandria, Port Said, and other parts of Egypt.

The biggest challenge remains the gathering of thousands of stories to contribute to Egypt's big story.


image

How do you go about promoting the initiative?


JM: Our fellowship program is playing a big part in our promotional efforts. We organized a mass launch party in Tahrir Square last February 19, when the project successfully raised its funding goal. We are regularly calling on institutional sponsors and partners to support us. Not only are we feeding the site with rich content, we are also training the next generation of Egyptian journalists to gather and craft stories through the fellowship program.

We are actively involving the local press, both in English and Arabic language. We are relying on our personal networks, which is the most effective way to engage with communities and encourage more people to use the website and tell their stories.

What is your long-term vision for 18DaysInEgypt?


JM: We want to wrap up the project at some point. Perhaps after the presidential elections on May 23- 24, we will decide to stop collecting stories, then we can start working on what we call the "experience": how to take all the collected stories and present them in a digestible format for someone who, in years ahead, would like to learn about the Egyptian revolution. This is a way to make history come alive.

Alessandra Bajec, Italian/French bilingual, holds a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Between June 2010 and May 2011, she lived in Palestine, where she made her first steps as a freelance journalist. During that time, she reported on news events, conducting interviews and writing feature stories. She also contributed as English radio newscaster to Voice of An-Najah (An-Najah University). Her articles have appeared in Palestinian newswires such as the PNN, IMEMC, and The Palestine Telegraph. Now based in London, she is establishing herself as a regular freelance journalist. Her interests include Palestine, the Middle East, independent journalism, peace, human rights, and international travel.


ejc-logo small.jpgThis piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

April 11 2012

14:00

Governments Increasingly Targeting Twitter Users for Expressing Their Opinion

This piece is co-authored by Trevor Timm.

In its six years of existence, Twitter has staked out a position as the most free speech-friendly social network. Its utility in the uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa is unmatched, its usage by activists and journalists alike to spread news and galvanize the public unprecedented.

As Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently boasted at the Guardian Changing Media Summit, Twitter is "the free speech wing of the free speech party."

But at the same time, some governments -- in both not-so-democratic and democratic societies -- have not taken such a positive view of Twitter and freedom of expression. Instead, they've threatened, arrested and prosecuted their citizens for what they express in 140 characters or less.

Not surprisingly, in a number of authoritarian-minded states, journalists are often the first targets. And as bloggers and pundits take to the ephemeral style of Twitter to criticize rules, the government has been -- in a number of cases -- one step ahead. While some countries, such as Bahrain and Tunisia, have chosen to block individual Twitter accounts, others prefer to go straight to the source.

Crackdown in the Middle East

In February, Saudi blogger and journalist Hamza Kashgari fled the country after threats on his life. His crime? Tweeting a mock conversation with the Prophet Mohammed, an action which many called blasphemous. Though Kashgari was on his way to a country that would have granted him asylum, he transferred in Malaysia where, upon his arrival, he was detained, and finally extradited back to his home country, despite pleas from the international community to allow him to continue onward.

Kashgari remains in detention in Saudi Arabia, while outside of prison, members of the public continue to call for his murder. Nearly as chilling is the threat to his livelihood: Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Abdul Aziz Khoja has banned Kashgari, a journalist by profession, from writing in "any Saudi paper or magazine," meaning that even if he walks free, he'll be prohibited from continuing in the only profession he has ever known -- and all for a tweet.

In the United Arab Emirates -- no stranger to Internet censorship -- political activist Mohammed Abdel-Razzaq al-Siddiq was arrested in late March for criticizing one of the country's rulers on his Twitter account. Earlier in the month, blogger and activist Saleh AlDhufair was arrested for criticizing repressive actions by state authorities on Twitter as well.

According to one source, UAE authorities also detained three other people in recent weeks for postings on social media, including one young citizen who faces charges for commenting on uprisings against autocratic rulers in the region on Twitter. All are free on bail for now, but their ultimate fates have yet to be determined.

muawiya-375x250.jpg

In Oman, police arrested prominent blogger Muawiya Alrawahi in February after he posted a series of tweets in which he criticized the country's rulers on a variety of issues. Alrawahi's arrest directly followed that of two journalists charged with "insulting" the Minister of Justice. And in nearby Kuwait, writer Mohammad al-Mulaifi has been held for more than a month over accusations of "insulting the Muslim Shi'ite minority," a charge which for another activist, Mubarak Al-Bathali, whose "crime" was also committed on Twitter, resulted in a prison sentence of three years (later commuted to six months). His detention was not the first of its kind in the country either; in the summer of 2011, Nasser Abul spent three months in prison for criticizing the Bahraini and Saudi royal families on Twitter.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has taken a similar approach. Last summer, SCAF court-martialed young activist Asmaa Mahfouz and charged her with inciting violence, disturbing public order and spreading false information via her Twitter account. Tunisia and Morocco have also cracked down on social media punditry of late and have arrested Facebook users for expressing themselves politically.

Facebook is as likely a target as Twitter. In the West Bank, Palestinian authorities arrested two Palestinian journalists, which may prove to have a self-silencing effect on other local reporters. Two journalists and a university lecturer were recently detained for comments made on Facebook that offended the Palestinian Authority. The lecturer remains imprisoned.

Democracy?

Arrests and prosecutions based on tweets is not relegated to Middle Eastern countries, however. A string of cases in otherwise robust democracies have raised questions by using the legal system to attempt to jail citizens who many would say are engaging in free speech.

South Korea -- one of a handful of democracies that justifies online censorship on the basis of "national security" -- has used its National Security Law to mete out harsh punishments to those who "praise, encourage disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups, members or those under their control." The law applies to "affiliation with or support for" North Korea, and allows the government to censor websites related to North Korea or communism.

As reported by the New York Times in February, authorities arrested Park Jung-geun, a 23-year-old photographer, who re-posted content from North Korean government site Uriminzokkiri.com to his Twitter account. Ironically, South Korean media regularly cite the government-run website in news reports. Though Park claimed that his Twitter posts were intended sarcastically, prosecutors disagreed, countering that the Twitter account "served as a tool to spread North Korean propaganda." If convicted, Park could face up to seven years in jail.

In the United Kingdom, where the prime minister already floated the idea of censoring Twitter accounts during the London riots last year, a judge sentenced 21-year-old college student Liam Stacey to 56 days in jail for tweeting racist remarks about a prominent footballer for the Bolton Wanderers. While the tweets were certainly "vile and abhorrent" as the judge concluded, his statement that "there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence" is misguided. By making an international case out of the tweets, the prison sentence ended up giving them more reach than if had they been ignored.

In the United States, strong free speech protections under the First Amendment have kept Twitter users out of jail for expressing their opinion, but increasingly, the federal and local governments have been going after Twitter users in a different way -- by subpoenaing their Twitter information in criminal investigations. Most notably, this tactic was used against three former WikiLeaks volunteers, who saw their Twitter and email information subpoenaed in a Grand Jury investigation into the publishing of classified information -- a practice normally protected by the First Amendment.

occupy.jpg

But more recently, a series of subpoenas have been issued by the Boston and New York district attorneys offices in response to Occupy Wall Street protests. At least four accounts have been targeted, and often the subpoenas come with requests for months of information for minor crimes such as disorderly conduct that often don't rise to a felony, require jail time, or even show up on one's permanent criminal record. Critics have seen it as an intimidation tactic against protesters who are engaging in legitimate First Amendment-protected speech.

While social media sites like Twitter will continue to proliferate in the coming years, governments -- whether they are fearful of the power of communication, because of existing strict speech laws, or a combination of both -- will find ways to "fight back" against increasing venues for expression. Journalists -- whose livelihood is increasingly bolstered by social media -- must continue to call attention to them.

Occupy image by asterix611, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Jillian C. York is the director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She writes regularly about free expression, politics, and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world. She is on the Board of Directors of Global Voices Online, and has written for a variety of publications, including Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg.

Trevor Timm is an activist and blogger at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. Previously, he helped the former general counsel of the New York Times write a book on press freedom and the First Amendment. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic and Al Jazeera.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 30 2012

19:45

Poll: How Is Social Media Changing Activism?

How do people end up in the streets protesting something? What motivates them to take action, even when that action could lead to their arrest? Last year, Facebook and Twitter played major roles in helping organize street protests during the Arab Spring, to the point where dictators were focused on either blocking the services or using them to spy on protestors. And now, with the recent Trayvon Martin shooting, the backlash against "pink slime" in meat, and the protests against the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, action has spread through social media like never before. Are we at a tipping point for activism fueled by social media? Is it all good or is there a dark side? Vote in our poll, below, and share your thoughts in the comments below.


How is social media changing activism?

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 29 2012

19:59

Traditional and citizen journalism are not adversaries

GigaOM :: As we have described a number of times at GigaOM, journalism has become something virtually anyone can practice now, thanks to social tools and digital media. This democratization of distribution has had a profound effect on the coverage of uprisings in Egypt and Libya and more recently in Syria. Thanks to YouTube, Twitter and other networks, more information is available about what is happening in those countries. But is it reliable?

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

March 27 2012

14:00

How Media-Savvy Activists Report From the Front Lines in Syria

In Syria, many activists and citizen journalists fill a media void and contribute to the global conversation on the uprising there by capturing and sharing their own footage. They're organized, trained, smart, strategic, and promote media -- much of it mobile -- with a purpose.

banyas.jpg

Mass demonstrations and state violence continue in Syria. Authorities are largely banning foreign reporters and have arrested Syrian journalists and bloggers. Outside of the country, many news outlets that report on the major events there cite "Syrian activists" as the source of information. Day-to-day events in cities around the country come to our attention largely because of the activists and citizen journalists who are systematically providing information to news outlets worldwide.

Thus, perhaps the way the term "citizen journalism" has been used to date is a misnomer in the context of recent events in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Activists on the ground and online don't just happen to capture and record media because they're in the right place at the right time. Instead, they systematically gather, and strategically disseminate media.

It may be time for a new term -- "activist media" who are reporting from the front lines -- that describes the organized media campaigns waged by these activists in a place where traditional media is largely absent.

a media revolution

A report from Channel 4 News noted that a "a band of brand-new, out-of-nowhere, self-styled TV news reporters has sprung up in besieged Syrian cities," contributing to a media revolution. The article highlighted the video below, in which a video journalist from the Baba al-Sebaa area of Homs reported, all the while dodging bullets toward the end of the video.

But videos like these are more than just valuable content. They're part of a cogent global narrative from a well-informed and well-equipped group of activists who use mobile phones to live-stream, video record, Skype, and take photos in very strategic ways to provide witness and testimony to the events in Syria. They inform a public outside of the country, as well as reinforce activism in many areas within Syria, conveying the story of an opposition movement.

Most of the reporting is, of course, coming from the front lines. But organizations both in and outside of the country are offering support and training, with mainstream media outlets publishing and pushing citizen content to a larger global audience to help reinforce the narrative of the rebellion.

The media-savvy activists use a number of astute dissemination strategies: Photos and videos are shared across multiple platforms alongside additional text context or transcripts, and often have metadata such as time, date, and location stamps. Content is being uploaded hourly, and often live, on any number of social media sites, blogs and live-streaming video services like Bambuser. And where Internet or mobile network access are shut down, footage is collected and distributed via alternatives such as the old-fashioned sneakernet.

You can read the complete story here on the Mobile Media Toolkit. We highlight ways that activists and citizens are strategically capturing, crafting and sharing news, as well as the organizations that help support their work.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Syria-Frames-of-Freedom and licensed under Creative Commons. 

February 11 2012

19:08

Australian journalist, Egyptian translator arrested by Egyptian military

Bikya Masr :: An Australian journalist and his Egyptian translator have been arrested in the Nile Delta city of Mahallah on Saturday. As of Saturday evening, the two had been charged with “incitement” and had been transferred to the prosecutor’s office. Austin Mackell and Aliya Alwi had been covering the protests taking place in the northern Egyptian town – the flashpoint of protests in 2008 – as part of the general strike that began on Saturday in Egypt when the military police arrested them.

Continue to read bikyamasr.com

February 05 2012

16:22

Egypt to prosecute Americans in NGO probe

Washington Post :: The Egyptian government intends to prosecute at least 40 people, including some American citizens, as part of an investigation into non-government organizations that receive foreign funding, state media reported Sunday. The announcement came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the Egyptian foreign ministry that failure to quickly resolve the probe could jeopardize the more than $1.3 billion Egypt expects to get this year in U.S. aid.

Continue to read www.washingtonpost.com

Tags: Egypt

January 19 2012

07:19

Journalism in Egypt: January 25th 2012, the anniversary of the Egyptian uprising

Huffington Post :: January 25th 2012, the first anniversary of the Egyptian uprisings that brought down Mubarak, is approaching quickly. When it comes, the news will arrive fast and fragmented from Tahrir, as it has every time big numbers return to the square. The ruling military council has called for an anniversary celebration just as activists are calling for renewed protests to demand that they leave power. One of the most interesting questions will be how the events, whatever they turn out to be, are covered by the local press.

Continue to read Maurice Chammah, www.huffingtonpost.com

January 17 2012

16:38

Looking back at 2011 -- Egyptian revolution. Video interview with Heba Gamal.

It has been almost a year since the revolution in Egypt started. It is a great time to look back at what happened and, especially in the context of the net2 blog, ask questions about the role that technology played in it. A lot has been written and said about the role of social media in the past year’s protests, and this is why here on Net2, we‘d like to bring a unique voice to the discussion.

Heba Gamal, a Senior TechSoup Global Network Partner manager, is Egyptian and has been closely monitoring events that took place in her homeland in 2011 and during the last days. Apart from her personal relationship with Egypt and the revolution Heba also has a social activist past, and a passion for new technologies and web 2.0 in particular.

Watch this short video and listen to what Heba has to say. Want to ask Heba a question? Have any other thoughts about how social media help inform social actions and inspire democratization processes? Let us know in the comments!


 

January 05 2012

21:53

From Tunis to Tahrir Square: Internet access is not a human right, it is an enabler

New York Times :: From the streets of Tunis to Tahrir Square and beyond, protests around the world last year were built on the Internet and the many devices that interact with it. It is no surprise, then, that the protests have raised questions about whether Internet access is or should be a civil or human right. In June, citing the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, a report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur went so far as to declare that the Internet had “become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights.” But that argument, however well meaning, misses a larger point:

[Vinton G. Cerf, Chief Internet evangelist for Google:] ... technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.

Continue to read Vinton G. Cerf, www.nytimes.com

December 28 2011

20:26

Twitter's business model: (advertising) status quo and outlook 2012

Mashable :: People predicted rioting when Twitter decided to post ads within its feeds. However, those protests never materialized. Instead, Twitter was used to mobilize protests in the streets in Egypt, Yemen and Tunesia. - The two instances are related. As Twitter became a globally recognized entity, it also began efforts to monetize itself earnestly in 2011. As previously mentioned, Twitter’s successful introduction of advertising was one of the big social media marketing trends of the year. Despite warnings from some Twitter purists, users didn’t seem to mind more ads on Twitter, perhaps concluding that Twitter was, after all, a for-profit business.

Twitter 2012: Bigger and More Ads - continue to read Todd Wasserman, mashable.com

07:41

Anthony De Rosa - Arab Spring 2011: timeline of protest, revolution and uprising

Storify | Anthony De Rosa :: Tunisia: December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire in Tunisia after repeated harassment from police who confiscated his fruit and vegetable cart, claiming he didn’t have a permit. Bouazizi’s self-immolation is widely considered the event that help propel the Arab Spring into motion.

[Mohamed Bouazizi:] I’m leaving, mom, I beg your pardon, any blame is useless, I am lost in a path out of my control, pardon me if I disobeyed you, blame our times, don’t blame me, I’m leaving forever, I’ll not be back, I am fed up crying without tears, blames are useless during these cruel times in this place, I’m tired and I forgot all about the past, I’m leaving while asking myself if my departure will help me forget.

2011: Arab Spring timeline - Continue to read Anthony De Rosa, storify.com

December 19 2011

10:07

Egypt’s state-run and independent news outlets differ on cause of latest violence

New York Times :: On the third day of clashes between security forces and protesters in the center of the capital, a new battle broke out Sunday between Egypt’s state-run and independent media over whom to blame for the violence. What is at stake in the propaganda war is public support ahead of the looming contest between an elected Parliament and the ruling military council over who will control the transitional government and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

Source: @mosireen, uploaded - "Army and CSF clearing Tahrir, Dec 19". Mosireen is an independent media collective supporting the Egyptian revolution and its citizen journalists and independent film makers. Details: http://mosireen.org

Continue to read David D. Kirkpatrick, www.nytimes.com

Tags: Egypt

November 27 2011

20:58

Egypt - The #freemona perfect storm: dissent and the networked public sphere

Egyptian-American writer Mona El Tahawy, who had cut her trip in North Africa short to join the exploding Tahrir protests in her native country, posted an alarming tweet to her followers "Beaten arrested in interior ministry." Short, uncapitalized, clearly written in a hurry. And with that, she went silent. - The Twitter community responded with a "perfect storm": #freemona.

Technosociology.org :: A few decades ago, contemplating launching a global campaign like this would require that I own, say, a television station or two. I hadn’t even unpacked my television set when I moved to Chapel Hill to take up a position as an assistant professor in University of North Carolina. Heck, I dodn’t even have a landline phone. But, “I” wasn’t just an “I.”  Due to my academic and personal interests, I was connected to a global network of people ranging from grassroots activists in Egypt to journalists and politicians, from ordinary people around the world to programmers and techies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. My options weren’t just cursing at a television set –if her arrest had even made the news in the next few days. I could at least try to see what *we* could do, and do quickly.

Concise, fast, global, public and connected was what we needed, and, for that, there is nothing better than Twitter.

[Jeff Jarvis:] Zeynep Tufekci writes a valuable post recounting the social pressure brought to #FreeMona. As she notes, there's no way to prove the impact. But it appears that in this case and others, being public about an arrest is helpful.

Continue to read Zeynep Tufekci, technosociology.org

October 09 2011

05:34

Editorial policy: Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera and "people journalism"

Guardian :: The revolutionary fervour of the Arab Spring came alive last night at City University London in a lecture by Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al-Jazeera.  In describing his reaction to the various uprisings, particularly in Egypt and Libya, he illustrated just what is meant by a journalism of attachment or commitment.

[Wadah Khanfar:] I learned from my experience as a reporter, and then as director of a media institution, an important basic fact: that we should always posit people at the centre of our editorial policy.

Continue to read Roy Greenslade, www.guardian.co.uk

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