USIP's Media, Conflict & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, September 8 - 14, 2011

Media and Journalism

Internet and Social Media

What's New from PeaceMedia

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Media and Journalism

Feeding The Beast: When Journalists Fuel Harmful Narratives
The old paradigms of supporting Israel unconditionally, marginalizing political Islam and propping up dictators we whitewash as "moderates" do not hold when the region is experiencing such fundamental shifts. Especially when our policies were such dismal failures before the Arab Awakening even hit our television screens. So it is disheartening to see so many analysts, reporters and commentators still transfixed with old narratives -- none of which serve to encourage the innovative policy reassessments needed to deal with this spanking new world.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Sharmine Narwani, 9/14/11)
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The NBC Report That Could Have Been Produced By Iranian State TV
[A] flattering report, described as the "first-ever behind-the-scenes access" into the Iranian president's daily schedule, was aired on the U.S. television network NBC. The "exclusive" report, which reveals unimportant details about Ahmadinejad's life (including the fact that he works with his shoes off but his reading glasses on) is a great piece of propaganda for Ahmadinejad, who heads to New York next week to attend the UN General Assembly. The positive report has been also noticed in Tehran, including by Ayandehnews, which referred to it as NBC's "propaganda piece" about Ahmadinejad.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Golnaz Esfandiari, 9/14/11)
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Female War Reporters: 'We're Given the Softer Side of War'
Every war has a media face: Kate Adie in the Gulf conflict of 1991, John Simpson in Afghanistan in 2001, "Scud stud" Rageh Omaar in Iraq in 2003. But the particular media focus for the Libyan revolution was that the first three reporters into Green Square, Tripoli, were all women: Crawford, Sara Sidner, of CNN, and Zeina Khodr, of al-Jazeera English - much to their surprise. Says Khodr: "I was really shocked by the focus in western media on female reporters - there's been nothing like that in the Muslim press."
See the full article (Independent, Glenda Cooper, 9/14/11)
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No Justice for Anna Politkovskaya
Five years after the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was brutally shot in her Moscow apartment building, there have been no convictions for her murder. We hope the legal system does better, but we are not optimistic. Meanwhile, the mastermind or masterminds behind the assassination have not been found. Unfortunately, this is the norm in Russia where 52 journalists have been killed since 1992, with 18 of those cases still unsolved.
See the full article (New York Times, 9/13/11) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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In Afghanistan, Diplomacy Meets the TV Crime Drama
To the long list of public diplomacy efforts the U.S. State Department has launched in Afghanistan, add the TV show "Eagle Four," a "24"-style cop thriller that has proven to be the most popular of several TV programs financed by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The show [is] meant to serve some public policy function, Ensor told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday. The USIP conference at which Ensor spoke, titled Media in Conflict: The Evaluation Imperative, was largely devoted to a deep analysis of how, when and whether the effectiveness of international development and conflict prevention media projects could be gauged.
See the full article (Nextgov, Joseph Marks, 9/12/11)
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South African Youth Leader Malema Guilty of Hate Speech
A South African court found Julius Malema, the ruling ANC's youth leader, guilty of hate speech Monday for singing an anti-apartheid anthem whose lyrics mean "shoot the white farmer". "The singing of the song by Malema constituted hate speech," Judge Collin Lamont said in a ruling that banned any future singing of the lyrics. "No justification exists allowing the words to be sung," he said, adding that the song runs against racial reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa.
See the full article (AFP, Joshua Howat Berger, 9/11/11)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Negotiating Peace and Confronting Corruption: Challenges for Post-Conflict Societies" on September 21 at 2:00pm.
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Egypt Security Forces Raid Unit of Al Jazeera
Security officers raided the offices of an Al Jazeera channel in Egypt and detained some of its staff, the Qatar-based broadcaster said on Sunday, describing the move as an attempt to drive the channel off the air. State news agency MENA said it had shut down a company that provided facilities to the channel Al Jazeera Mubasher (Live), which broadcasts live international events. MENA said the Al Jazeera unit did not have a proper license.
See the full article (Reuters, Shaimaa Fayed, 9/11/11)
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Libya's Fledgling Independent Media
When the Libyan uprising began in February, there were no foreign journalists in the country and no independent Libyan journalists either. If you were a journalist in Libya at that time, you were reporting on behalf of the government. But in that violent first week in Benghazi, even after Colonel Gaddafi had switched off the internet, Libya's first citizen journalist, Mohammed Nabbous, managed to establish a pirate internet connection to stream video reports online. Since then, Libya's independent media industry has been booming. But the people behind them have little or no understanding of how an independent media should work, let alone journalistic experience.
See the full article (ABC, Elizabeth Jackson, 9/10/11)
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The Media and 9/11: How We Did
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, journalists are spewing forth endless retrospectives -- asking people to recall "where were you when," interviewing anguished families of victims, and probing whether politicians have been successful in their "war on terror." It is unlikely, however, that journalists will look at themselves and their profession and ask, "How did we do post 9/11?" They should. The role -- many would say, failure -- of the media in the run-up to the Iraq war has been widely debated.
See the full article (Atlantic, Raymond Bonner, 9/9/11)
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Iraqis Mourn Slain Journalist Amid Protests
Hundreds of people turned out to mourn Hadi al-Mehdi, an Iraqi radio personality who was shot dead in Baghdad on the eve of a major anti-government protest. Al-Mehdi was one of the leading public critics of the Iraqi authorities' corruption and incompetence, said Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad. Our correspondent said al-Mehdi was a "popular radio host that some people found insulting, who criticised everyone from Prime Minister Maliki to 'dirty parliamentarians' and Shia militias".
See the full article (Al Jazeera, 9/9/11)
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AP Photographer Chronicles Wars in Berlin Show
An Afghan boy on a swing ride with a toy submachine gun in his hand. A black-clad Iraqi mother giving a bottle to her baby daughter outside Abu Ghraib prison as she waits for the release of detainees. A U.S. Marine mourning the loss of 31 comrades in Iraq. The powerful images are among some 40 black-and-white photographs by Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus from conflict zones around the world presented to journalists Friday at the Berlin gallery C/O Berlin.
See the full article (AP, Kirsten Grieshaber, 9/9/11)
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Al Jazeera English in America
Since its launch in 2006, Al Jazeera English has had a lot of trouble breaking into American markets. Andrew Stelzer reports a cautionary tale about Burlington, Vermont, a town whose cable service picked up Al Jazeera English, inspiring intense local protests.
See the full article (NPR, Andrew Stelzer, 9/9/11)
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Sudan Bans Publication of Newspaper Edition- Editor
Sudanese security forces have banned an independent newspaper from publishing its entire Thursday edition, its editor said. Sudan's constitution guarantees press freedom but journalists often complain of pressure or censorship. In July, two female journalists were jailed for writing about an alleged rape case. Security forces arrived at al-Sahafa newspaper late on Wednesday and banned the daily from distributing its Thursday edition, editor Annur Ahmed Annur said.
See the full article (Reuters, Khaled Abdelaziz and Ulf Laessing, 9/8/11)
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Meet Gaddafi's Favourite Television Host
If you are a recently deposed Arab dictator, on the run but still trying to galvanise armed resistance to your enemies, then Misha'an al-Jabouri is the man to call. Jabouri, an Iraqi exile who runs al-Rai satellite TV in Syria, had Muammar Gaddafi on the line at 4am on Thursday, rallying his supporters, attacking his opponents as "rats and scumbags", vowing "never to leave the land of his ancestors", and denying claims he had already fled Libya for neighbouring Niger.
See the full article (Guardian, Ian Black, 9/8/11)
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Encourage Growth of Journalism, Says Editor
A prominent Indian journalist and author has urged Gulf countries to promote and encourage the growth of journalism as a medium to support various sectors of the economy and society, including finance, industry, the environment and technology. T. J. S. George is optimistic that the Arab Spring will in many cases lead to a more liberalised and independent media that can play the same watchdog role as in India. While countries like Egypt and Libya may see a rebirth of professional journalism, others like Iraq may, however, continue to struggle.
See the full article (Gulf Times, Ross Jackson, 9/8/11)
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Internet and Social Media

Syrian Unrest: The Exiles Keeping the Uprising Online
Social networking and internet-based communication has been crucial to all the Arab Spring uprisings, including the ongoing struggle in Syria - and Syrian exiles in Lebanon are helping to make it possible. In cramped, smoke-filled apartments in Beirut, I came to know the two men who, for me, now embody the Syrian uprising. Both are exiles, escaping from President Bashar Assad's Syria at different times, but now with very similar lives undercover in Lebanon.
See the full article (BBC, Mishal Husain, 9/14/11)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Sifting Fact from Fiction: The Role of Social Media in Conflict" on September 16 at 9:00am. You can also watch the live webcast!
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Taliban and Nato-led Forces Engage in War of Words on Twitter
As the 20-hour assault by Taliban insurgents on Kabul's diplomatic and military enclave drew to a close on Wednesday, insurgents and coalition forces decided to prolong the battle the modern way: on Twitter. If the continued insurgency in Afghanistan represents a failure of dialogue, the spat between the Taliban and the press office of the international security assistance force (Isaf) on Wednesday proved that they are ready to exchange words directly, even if their comments offered little hope of peace being forged anytime soon.
See the full article (Guardian, Haroon Siddique, 9/14/11)
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How Social Media Is Keeping the Egyptian Revolution Alive
The revolution in Egypt is unfinished business. While new online tools are used to strengthen civil society, activists are still struggling with the digital divide when it comes to mobilizing masses against the army and the remains of the old administration. On a Saturday evening in Cairo, a digital campaign against military trials for civilians is on. Activists are posting comments on the Facebook site of the Egyptian Armed Forces, whose Supreme Council -- the SCAF -- holds power in Egypt.
See the full article (PBS, Tanja Aitamurto and Hanna Sistek, 9/13/11)
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Iraqi Activist: Baghdad Betrayed Me
The heading on 21-year-old Noof Assi's blog page is the classic Gandhi quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world." She is often at the forefront of demonstrations in Iraq demanding basic services and reforms -- but her road from child to activist has been dogged by bloodshed and violence. Noof is a fabric design major turned activist and blogger, working at the human rights group, al-Amal, which means hope.
See the full article (CNN, Arwa Damon, 9/12/11)
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The Taliban's Internet Strategy
The Taliban once banned photography, movies, and use of the Internet on the grounds that they were all "un-Islamic." Now, however, the terrorist group's perspective has radically changed. Throughout the duration of their government (1996-2001), which was toppled after the 9/11 attacks, social media did not exist. Despite persistently launching attacks on officials and killing civilians, the Taliban has yet to have a decisive military success. However, it has been trying hard to compensate for its military losses with effective propaganda warfare. The militant group cannot deny the potential of such media as tools of propaganda and recruitment.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Bashir Ahmad Gwakh, 9/12/11)
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New York Non-profit Helps Cyber Dissidents Dissent
The recent waves of protests, riots, and wars that happened around the world have shown us that social media, if used accordingly, possess the power to topple dictators or incite fears and violence, even within a benign society such as England. However cyber dissidents are putting themselves at a great personal risk as their actions or commentaries in the Internet placed them at the forefront of possible tyrannical retributions., a New York based human rights organization, has inserted itself at the front and center of the struggle, protecting and promoting the voices of freedom seeking internet bloggers and cyber activists from the Middle East.
See the full article (The Ticker, Jusan Ng, 9/12/11)
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Secret Diplomatic Cables Reveal Microsoft's "Win-Win" Deal with Tunisian Police State
Following revelations that a spun-off intelligence unit of German electronics giant Siemens, Trovicor, had sold surveillance gear to Bahrain deployed against the pro-democracy movement, it has since emerged that Microsoft established an IT training program for Ministry of Justice and Interior officials in Tunisia. A secret State Department cable published by the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks noted that "during the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in South Africa July 11-12, the GOT and the Microsoft Corporation signed a partnership agreement that provides for Microsoft investment in training, research, and development, but also commits the GOT to using licensed Microsoft software."
See the full article (Dissident Voice, Tom Burghardt, 9/12/11)
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In Malaysia, Freedom of the (Virtual) Press
When thousands of protesters calling for electoral reform took to the streets here July 9, Malaysiakini, one of Malaysia's most popular news Web sites, received 5.2 million hits, making the day one of the site's busiest since it was established in 1999. An increasing tendency to seek news online is hardly unique to Malaysia. But here, it is not just technology driving readers to news Web sites. It is also that - by design, and in contrast to countries like China, with its infamous Great Firewall - in Malaysia the Internet operates outside the stringent laws that regulate the traditional media.
See the full article (New York Times, Liz Gooch, 9/8/11) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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The Word on Women - Digital war: The Fight for the Children of the Arab Spring
Social media platforms can be a positive driver for activism, while also pushing children into taking sides. In Libya, where I was UNICEF's Acting Chief of Communication this summer, I witnessed young children being caught up in a propaganda war. Children of all ages will need help to understand and interpret the sound-bites and violent imagery that has surrounded them for over six months. Integrating this response will be vital for Libyans as they rebuild their communities.
See the full article (TrustLaw, Rebecca Fordham, 9/8/11)
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U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford Takes on His Critics Via Facebook
For the second time in three days, America's most free-range diplomat has taken to the Internet to deliver a direct message to the people of the country where he is serving. U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, posted a message on Facebook late Thursday in response to critical comments from a message he posted earlier in the week.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Joshua Hersh, 9/8/11)
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What's New from PeaceMedia

Armed Conflict and Education - UNICEF
UNICEF Regional Education in Emergencies Advisor, Gary Keith Ovington, talks about armed conflict and the massive number of children out of school as a result. In September 2010, Mr. Ovington organized the first-ever regional discussion of the problem, bringing together UNICEF staff, NGOs and government officials from five Asian countries to talk about how education is being attacked and what is working in their countries to protect students, teachers and schools from the violence.
See the full video
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