USIP's Media, Conflict & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 2 - 8, 2012

Media and Journalism

Internet and Social Media

What's New from PeaceMedia

Media and Journalism

Conversion Ratings
With more than 90 cash-strapped channels competing for the attention of 40 million viewers daily, it's not surprising that Pakistan's independent media producers resort to sensationalism to boost ratings. The decision of the show's host to broadcast [a religious] conversion betrayed extremely poor judgment. Given systemic religious discrimination in Pakistan, [the] show risks encouraging the coercion of religious minorities.
See the full article (New York Times, Huma Yusuf, 8/8/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Burmese Journalists Succeed with Press Freedom Protest
The Burmese authorities have lifted suspensions on two weekly magazines after journalists staged a rare protest to demand greater press freedom. A week ago the editors were ordered to suspend publication indefinitely for having violated unspecified regulations. It led to dozens of journalists collecting signatures for a petition that was sent to President Thein Sein calling for an end to censorship. The protest was hailed as historic in a country where any form of dissent used to be harshly penalised.
See the full article (Guardian, Roy Greenslade, 8/7/12)
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Syria: Bomb Blast in State TV Building in Damascus
Syrian state-run television says a bomb has ripped through the third floor of the state TV building in Damascus. The report says at least three people were wounded in Monday's bomb attack targeting the building which also houses the country's state radio. The Syrian capital has seen a string of suicide attacks and other bombings in the past few months as the country's civil war has escalated. A pro-government private Syrian TV station, Al-Ikhbariya, remained on air.
See the full article (AP, 8/6/12)
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Push by Syrian Rebels Opens Space for Foreign Journalists to Report on Conflict
While forces loyal to Mr. Assad appear unlikely to give up their effort to crush the uprising anytime soon, one tangible sign of a tilt in the balance of power is the increasing number and frequency of reports from foreign journalists who have managed to enter Syria without government permission. These reports are striking in part because the ruling Baath Party was previously so successful in preventing reporters from working freely inside Syria.
See the full article (New York Times, Robert Mackey, 8/6/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Syria Conflict Finds a Voice in Hip-hop
As the conflict in Syria rages, the violence and chaos is finding expression among writers and musicians, including one hip-hop act from Damascus. Music and revolution have always gone hand-in-hand and the Arab Spring is no exception. The Syrian uprising is providing optimum conditions for straight-talking rap to flourish, and one particular Syrian band, LaTlateh, are articulating the feelings of a nation.
See the full article (BBC, 8/3/12)
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Popular Somali Comedian Who Dared to Mock Militants is Killed in Mogadishu Streets
On one of his recent radio shows, a popular Somali comedian ridiculed commanders of a ruthless Islamist insurgent group that is notorious for forcibly recruiting boys into its ranks and making them fight. Such ribbing may have cost comedian Abdi Jeylani Malaq his life. On Tuesday, the 43-year-old Malaq was shot dead near his home in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, by two young men suspected of belonging to al-Shabab, a group that pledges fealty to al-Qaida.
See the full article (AP, 8/2/12)
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Breaking the Arab News
While civil war rages on the Syrian battlefield between regime loyalists and myriad rebel factions, another battle is taking place in the media world. Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, the two Gulf-based channels that dominate the Arabic news business, have moved to counter Syrian regime propaganda, but have ended up distorting the news almost as badly as their opponents.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Sultan al Qassemi, 8/2/12)
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Internet and Social Media

Syrian Blogger: 'I Live or Die Here'
"Al" spends hours hunched over his keyboard, typing, working on his blog, Thoughts and Feelings of a Syrian Freedom Fighter. Its entries are nothing like the usual bomb and body-count stories about Syria. It's very difficult for journalists to verify information from inside Syria because the government has restricted access by international press. Al has given information that only someone inside Homs, a Syrian city in the center of much of the violence, would know.
See the full article (CNN, Ashley Fantz, 8/7/12)
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Arab Activists Using Web to Crowdsource Dissent
As electricity shortages reach crisis levels in Lebanon and Egypt, citizens turn to social media platforms to vent their anger against government failures, and to organize peaceful protests. In response to the crisis, Egyptians have set up several Facebook pages to voice their anger at the blackouts and to organize peaceful protests. In response to the situation, Lebanese social media users started a campaign against the country's Energy Minister.
See the full article (Jerusalem Post, Joanna Paraszczuk, 8/6/12)
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Dalai Lama, Twitter Rock Star: The Virtual Influence of His Holiness
The social-media accounts of the Dalai Lama, also known as His Holiness (or HH for short) to his followers, are managed by a team in his office. But a full-blown social-media campaign doesn't come to life overnight. [His] website underwent a redesign and relaunched in December 2009, followed by his first tweets, Facebook a month later, and then YouTube in July 2010. Last October the Dalai Lama's office joined Google+ and participated in a live "hangout" with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
See the full article (Daily Beast, Melinda Liu, 8/6/12)
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Reuters Hacked by Pro-Assad Propagandists Again, This Time on Twitter
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are stepping up the social media propaganda war, and in the past few days have made Reuters their favorite target. On Friday, Reuters said its "blogging platform" was hacked illegally. The hack involved at least two false stories being posted in favor of the Assad regime. Overnight, hackers managed to seize control of a popular Reuters Twitter account and briefly blasted out propaganda in Reuters' name to its followers.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, Dan Murphy, 8/5/12)
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Technology Boosting China People Power
This past week, an unusual state of affairs caught my eye. I expect protests in China to be stamped out pretty quickly. Instead, not only did the government recently allow a large group of protesters to run amok, it also apologized and caved in to their demands. What in the world? The protesters in both cities mobilized on Weibo - China's version of Twitter - where as many as 300 million users share news, photos, and discuss politics.
See the full article (CNN, Fareed Zakaria, 8/4/12)
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Pakistan's Extremists Whip Up Frenzy over Burma's Muslims
Pakistanis are mounting protests online and in the streets of cities like Lahore and Peshawar over the ill-treatment of Muslims in Myanmar, a situation that Islamist groups here are distorting to raise money and potentially win recruits. Online, a series of doctored and misidentified photographs are circulating widely in Pakistani social media and beyond that purport to show violence against Rohingyas.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, Taha Siddiqui, 8/3/12)
Click to read "Religion and Peacebuilding," a USIP Special Report by Susan Hayward.
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Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Joins Instagram, Posts Pics
Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei joined Instagram last week and so far has posted four photos. It comes as a surprise to some that a person who has been slow to get onboard with social media trends - not to mention Iran's stance toward its citizens' use of the social media - has joined Instagram. The regime continues to block social networking sites and restrict Internet access for its citizens.
See the full article (Mashable, Kate Freeman, 8/2/12)
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What's New from PeaceMedia

"Liberating Liberia's War Generation" - UNICEF
Sunny fought twice in Liberia's civil war: first with the rebels when he was 12 years old, and again for the government when he was 17. Now aged 20, Sunny has been enrolled in a UNICEF-supported program which is teaching this former child soldier how to be a farmer.
See the full video
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