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Social Media and the Arab Democracy Movement

When protests erupted in the Middle East this year, blogs, tweets and amateur videos rocketed through cyberspace. Live reports and commentary -- by amateurs and professional journalists alike -- fueled revolutions and fired imaginations, providing riveting details and a kind of gritty narrative power to events that seemed to turn an entire region topsy-turvy. 

Broadcast networks, most notably Al Jazeera, picked up impromptu feeds that flowed from the Arab streets and helped spread them to nearby neighborhoods and far countries, cementing the role of social media as a force in news reporting and civic engagement alike. Months later, with the region’s course still unclear, an ever-shifting community of bloggers, tweeters and masters of new media is trying to find its place.

Three specialists will bring their stories and their perspective to the festival on Saturday Nov. 5.

Abderrahim Foukara - Chicago Humanities Festival
Abderrahim Foukara (right)

Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera, contributed significantly to the network’s groundbreaking coverage during the Arab Spring and serves as an important interpreter of events in the Middle East and a valued voice in the United States for the work of the five-year-old Al Jazeera English network.

Rania Al Malky - Chicago Humanities Festival
Rania Al Malky

Rania Al Malky, editor of Daily News Egypt, an English-language news operation, is flying in from Cairo where she witnessed the Tahrir Square drama and the work of a new generation of tech-savvy bloggers. Not only was she on the scene, she was prescient, writing a research paper in London in 2007 that asked whether citizen journalists and their blogs could challenge the repressive narratives of state-run media and become important players in an Arab reform movement.

Ahmed Al Omran - Chicago Humanities Festival
Ahmed Al Omran

Ahmed Al Omran is a young Saudi blogger currently working in Washington as an intern for NPR. Indeed, he was barely 20 when he started the English blog that is now,  quickly focusing on human rights, freedom of expression and women’s rights. “I want to be a part of the change that is going on in Saudi Arabia,” he writes. “I want to participate in the effort to push for more reforms, and I want to see this country become a better place.” Ahmed also writes an Arabic blog.

Learn More:

Ahmed Al Omran on Social media and Saudi Arabia for NPR

Abderrahim Foukara on The Daily Show

PBS News Hour on Social Media and Al Jazeera featuring Abderrahim Foukara

"Revolution Not Chaos" by Rania Al Malky, Jan. 30, 2011


Tags: Arab Spring, Social Media, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Al Jazeera, blogs, twitter, journalism, Middle East

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