Cyberactivism and Citizen Journalism in Egypt: Digital Dissidence and Political Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
When I began studying the impact of new media in Egypt in 2006 the Internet was new and social networking usually took place at a bar. But after spending just one day on the ground I became fascinated by the centrality of media in youth activism and the emerging Egyptian blogosphere. Not long after I started my research, I started to believe that indeed these Internet-based ICTs could have profound cumulative effects, and presented a paper at the 2006 IAMCR conference in Cairo based on my initial research entitled ‘The Revolution Will be Blogged: Cyberactivism in Egypt.’ But as the process of writing stretched over the years the cumulative effect of a politics of small things became even more apparent when President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in 2011 amid mass mobilization. I have continued to observe the nexus of media, technology and rights from a range of vantage points: as a journalist at an Arab media outlet, from a human rights NGOs, and from the United Nations. These different, multifaceted perspectives have made it clear that even without revolutionary change, the findings presented in my book have implications for social movements across the world. More about the core issues covered in my book here.
Media Development and Countering Violent Extremism: An Uneasy Relationship, a Need for Dialogue (2016)
In this report I describe how media development practitioners perceive the expansion of the CVE agenda’s influence into various aspects of their field, and the different and sometimes ambivalent ways in which they respond to these perceptions. There are three distinct views on how the CVE agenda is influencing media development efforts: programmatic critique, pragmatic adaptation, and engaged reassessment. Two conclusions emerge strongly from my interviews. The first is that the efforts to distance CVE conceptually from media development are not providing the guidance needed to navigate an increasingly blurry line between the two fields in practice. The second is that audience reception studies and investments in media information literacy are needed, yet receive inadequate attention in CVE efforts and funding. Read more about CVE and my research here, and download the report here.
From Brotherhood to Blogosphere in Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring (2016)
“The blogosphere of the Muslim Brotherhood, a highly textual counterpublic within an often sedentary and reactive citizen audience, became, along with the April 6 youth movement, perhaps the most organized social public in uneasy friction with the state.”
From the editors: Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring brings together some of the most celebrated and respected names in Arab media research to reflect on the communication conditions that preceded and made the Arab uprisings possible.
War and Words: Al Jazeera and Al Qaeda in Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World’s Most Wanted Man (2015)
The story of Al Jazeera’s meteoric rise is tied up with Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the so-called War on Terror. Both Al Qaeda and Al Jazeera are phenomena at the nexus of globalization, resistance, and identity. Their rise to global prominence was also made possible by globalization and networked transnational media, namely the Internet and satellite television. Al Jazeera was often credited with building a new public sphere and pan-Arab identity while at the same time providing an Arab perspective on the series of U.S.-led incursions in the Middle East that became known as the War on Terror. Its rise happened to coincide with Al Qaeda’s rise and occurred amid extensive American forays into the Middle East, which were widely opposed in the region and thus not surprisingly led to highly critical coverage of a range of U.S. actions and policies toward the region and toward Muslims. Al Qaeda is primarily known to the outside world through the media and to its ideological adherents through mediated networks on the Internet and social media.
Responding to Internet Abuse in Attacks on the Press 2016
My chapter examines the dynamics of online abuse and harassment targeted at women journalists and how they choose to deal with it, from responding to blocking to ignoring, and what more needs to be done. Non-journalists and law enforcement officials often suggest that journalists facing online threats stay off Twitter and Facebook, but most journalists consider this an impractical and insufficient response. Journalists are public figures who depend on social media both for researching and disseminating the news, as well as for engaging with their audience and building their public profile. Responding to attacks by vacating their social media space can actually amplify the abuse, which may then go unrebutted, and have economic repercussions for the journalist. Read the full chapter here.
The artificiality of the online/offline dichotomy for women journalists in the digital age highlights the need for a range of solutions to addressing online harassment and abuse.
Treating the Internet as the enemy in the Middle East in Attacks on the Press 2015
In much of the Middle East and North Africa, the local press has limited independence and operates within strict red lines, and activists and journalists have turned to social media to provide reporting or commentary on issues of public concern. But the Internet is no longer as welcoming to independent journalism as non-democratic governments erase the legal distinctions between speech online and off and the digital space for independent journalism and free speech is constricted further by the impact of restrictive laws (think “fake news”, cybsercrime, and the likes), surveillance, and ensuing self-censorship. Read the full chapter here.
Laws, Norms and Block Bots: A Multifaceted Approach to Combatting Online Abuse in Countering Online Abuse Against Woman (OSCE)
What can journalists do to combat online abuse? And in particular, what can fe‑ male journalists do, given that we know that along with other women in public life, they suffer disproportionately from online abuse? Those targeted find that their options are limited by the particular characteristics of the social media platform(s) as well as the legal infrastructure, or lack thereof, in the jurisdiction in which they find themselves. And there are other considerations too: journalists must grapple with decisions about whether to go public, seek redress or press charges, if the option exists, while weighing up the potential repercussions of any decision on their career. Read the book here.
Arab Bloggers as Citizen Journalists (Transnational) in Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media
This one-volume encyclopedia features around 250 essays on the varied experiences of social movement media over the planet in the 20th and 21st centuries. Examining the tip of a gigantic iceberg, this reference resource examines a sample of the dizzying variety of formats and experiences that comprise social movement media. The guiding principles have been to ensure that experiences from the global South are given voice; that women are properly represented among contributors; that the wide spectrum of communication formats is included; that further reading is provided where relevant; and that some examples are provided of repressive social movement media, not exclusively progressive ones. My entry introduces Arab Bloggers as Citizen Journalists and includes the subheadings: The Myth of Low Connectivity in the Arab Region, Egypt as the Motor of Change and The 2008 “Facebook Strike”. Read more here.
Blogosphere and Social Media in Seismic Shift: Understanding Change in the Middle East (2011)
The momentous events sweeping the Arab world since late 2010 raised important questions about the art and science of analyzing political and societal events. In an age of information surplus, which creates the illusion that one can easily know what is happening anywhere in the world, big surprises still occur. Societies change, governments make choices that have consequences, and the political life of a country or a region is transformed. This chapter of Seismic Shift: Understanding Change in the Middle East provides deep background and context for the recent and dramatic use of social media in the Arab revolts, and broadly summarizes the messages in the media.
Read my chapter here.
From Cell Phones to Coffee: Issues of Access in Egypt in Surviving Field Research: Working in Violent and Difficult Situations
Access to informants is tied up with issues of identity and language, cultural awareness and concerns about safety of the subjects as well as the researcher. This article discusses how these issues play out in the ﬁeld and is primarily based on dissertation research I conducted in Egypt in 2006 and 2008.
The question of access is not only one of access to individuals but to entire countries. The ability to right of entry to a particular site can often depend on the researcher’s country of origin and funding sources just as much as interpersonal relations. My research focuses on new media and cyberactivism in the Arab world. I had initially intended to study Lebanon in addition to Egypt but had to drop the former because of practical considerations about funding and safety. Many donor agencies will not give funding for research in countries with a high level travel warning from the State Department, which made it diﬃcult to obtain and maintain funding for Lebanon. Civil violence and the outbreak of war also posed challenges to conducting research there since the airport often becomes a casualty of ﬁghting and travel become difﬁcult and dangerous. Furthermore, people, especially the journalists and activists I interview, tend to be unavailable during such times. And until one gains access to a country one cannot gain access to one’s subjects. Buy the book or read my chapter here.
Careers in Democracy and Human Rights NGOs in Careers in International Affairs, 9th ed.
This is the essential resource and job-hunting guide for all those interested in international careers in the US government, multinational corporations, banks, consulting companies, international and nongovernmental organizations, the media, think tanks, universities, and more. Careers in International Affairs, now in its ninth edition, provides up-to-date insights about the range of possibilities in the global workplace and tips on how to get these jobs—along with profiles of hundreds of important employers. Buy the book here.
World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Develoment (2014)
The overarching trend observed throughout the 2014 edition of World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development is one of disruption brought on by technology and to a lesser extent the global economic crisis, with mixed results for freedom of expression and media development. The publication comes at a critical moment for press freedom amid unprecedented opportunities for expression of new voices as well as new forms of restriction, surveillance and control. Download the report in any of the U.N. langauges here.
Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights (2010)
For more than a decade, a handful of Muslim-majority countries have engaged in a campaign to insinuate the concept of “defamation of religions” into international law. By winning passage of annual resolutions entitled “Combating Defamation of Religions” at both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, these countries claim to be responding to what they see as a global increase in intolerance and incitement to religious hatred, particularly Islam. The ultimate goal of the campaign, an international treaty of covenant on defamation of religions, would amount to global blasphemy law. Its potential consequences can be seen in the experiences of countries where blasphemy laws are already on the books and are actively enforced. This report- based on case studies of blasphemy laws in Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Poland- suggests that such laws pose serious threats to freedoms of expression and religion, violate minority rights, undermine due process, and in some cases encourage the religious violence they are supposedly designed to prevent.
Read the book here.