The Role of Media during the Arab Spring with Particular Focus on Libya

Term Paper, 2013

27 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 Problem Statement
1.2 Structure
1.3 State ofResearch

2. Definitions
2.1 Arab Spring
2.2 Media

3. The Awakening of the Arab world: The Arab Spring in Libya7 3.1Backgrounds
3.2 Course
3.3 Results

4. The Interdependency of Media and Arab Spring
4.1 Arab Spring without Media?
4.2 What Media can do and can not do
4.3 A possible Scenario

5. Abstract

6. Bibliography

The Role of Media during the Arab Spring with Particular Focus on Libya by Eric Holtschke

1. Introduction

When the people in the Arab world started to go out on the streets in December 2010 for the very first time for years, no one of the demonstrators and protesters who were fighting for their rights to live in a better world, in peace, freedom and democracy expected that level of change as a result of their behaviour. Those inconceivable aftermaths did not exist neither in the minds of the people in Tunisia, the nucleus of the Arab Spring, nor in the minds of the people who were joining that wave of protest country by country afterwards. Before that uprising arrived Libya, which is in the focus of attention here, in February 2011, the revolt expanded over the Middle East and North Africa. Never before mass media, including radio, television and, especially the internet (with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), was taken such a significant role during uprisings since the end of the year 2010. No one of the participants, who were involved in this uprising, no one of the politicians, no one of the citizens in the Western world, no one of the former leader of those regimes and no one of the media companies could count on this great measure of transformation in the Arab world. States were dissolved, former inhuman leaders of a regime were captured or killed and new fundaments of a modem, democratic and liberalized nation were created by the people or the opposition of those long lasting dictatorial and authoritarian leaders.

Taking a deeper look to the status of mass media during and after the Arab Spring it can be mentioned that particularly newspapers, as a component of mass media - which are currently in a critical financial situation all over the world - were presenting a kind of positive picture of the role of media regarding to the protest wave. Thus, Ramesh Srinivasan, an Associate Professor in Media/Information Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, published on the web page of “Al Jazeera” the following headline: “Taking power through technology in the Arab Spring,1. Further he said that “social media is no longer the domain of the liberal youth, empowering different agendas across the political map”, and he added that in the “[...] Arab world, the protests and riots would not have occurred without YouTube f...]”[1] [2]. On the platform “Policymic” is written: “Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring was helped by Social Media.”[3] And it is explained further: “Ultimately, public information supplied by social networking websites has played an important role during modern-day activism, specifically as it pertains to the Arab Spring.”[4] The “Small Wars Journal” on the other hand has a more negative point of view about the importance of social media during Arab Spring, as it is described as follows: “Social media eliminates two important impediments to communication - distance and delay - creating new pathways for people to connect in near-real time. But the social networks themselves are insufficient to drive a population to the streets.[5]

The fact is, that activists being significantly involved in the Arab Awakening were using social media networks as an important tool to support the spreading of the protest wave. Because: “Social media, perhaps thanks to the international and domestic hype, has a cache [...] that it did not have before the events of 2011.” [6]

1.1 Problem Statement

The intention of this present paper is to contribute an insight into a very specific topic of the interdependence between the role of mass media and the course and aftermaths of the uprisings in die Arab world. Related to the limited number of pages the paper mainly deals with focus on the Arab Spring in Libya and its connection and dependency to the social mass media in the period of time from the beginning of the spreading of the demonstrations in the Arab world over Libya until nowadays.

That paper was realized on the basis of a scientific literature and internet research, verified by numerous quotations from newspapers, political platforms, internet articles and specialised books and content-related movies. The target of this present paper is to close a gap in an area little explored by academics until now.

The central question of that paper is: Did media affect the course of the Arab uprising? If yes, how has media, e.g. social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as mass media like television and radio, affected the protest wave and its spreading in the Arab Spring and the outcomes of that protests in Libya? It gives rise to the following sub-questions: How can the course of Arab Awakening can be described as a scenario without the existence of global media? And: Have media supported the Arab Spring or, vice versa, the Arab Spring media?

1.2 Structure

In order to be able to analyse and to evaluate the issue regarding to the questions mentioned above, necessary terminologies which are in the focus of this discussion need to be specified, contents-related limited and finally defined at the beginning of the main section of this paper. Those nomenclatures are basically required for a better understanding of this present scientific paper. They can be seen as the fundament to a profound answering of the research questions. To maintain coherence of this paper the issue the thesis is dealing with will be presented in a primarily chronological and secondarily in a thematic order.

The approach to this topic will be done in the first content-related point 3: “The awakening of the Arab world: The Arab Spring in Libya”. This chapter is focussed on the backgrounds, the course and the outcomes of the Arab Spring with concentration on Libya. Regarding to the backgrounds the institutional frameworks of transitioning Libya is explained here. A indispensable historical abstract of the emergence, the development and the results of the uprisings in the Arab World in consideration of Libya can be found, too. The results deal about economical, political and societal aftermaths. This topic is rounded off by some interesting and unexpected statistics, numbers and quotations.

The second content-related chapter mainly deals deeply about the relation, the connection and the interdependency of media and the protests during the Arab Spring. Particularly the role of social mass media regarding to the course of the Arab Awakening is discussed, taking particular account to the research question mentioned in the introduction. Thus, current articles in newspapers or in the internet as well as two important moves which can be seen as a fundament to write about this issue are in the foreground here. They have been analyzed in order to achieve a possible scenario, mentioned in point 4.3. The scenario is including a specifically designed imaginary course of Arab Spring in the case of non­existence of mass media or the cut off of the web connection in the countries affected by the Arab Spring, especially Libya, based on resources which are dealing about that issue. Aspect 4.2 is leaving the main topic slowly, being concentrated on the target and on the boundaries of the functions of mass media in general. It can be recognized as a summary of its task with regard to contents.

Before this present paper will be finished by a detailed bibliography, it ends with a final abstract in point 5 of the table of contents. The abstract is focussed on a summarisation regarding to the aspects the paper was dealing with. Furthermore, the writer of this paper want to provide the feasibility to construct an optional course how media will be created in the near future, especially in consideration of its ability and potential in the transition of dictatorial regimes, in the spread of protest waves or in the democratization of nations.

Direct quotations and original used text extracts are presented in quotation marks and in a cursive style to accentuate its importance. It is deployed to simplify the flow of reading. Non-cursive words, phrases, sentences or passages of sentences are either colloquial used terms or expression from which the author would consciously like to distance himself.

1.3 State of Research

The state of research has to be evaluated as literarily weak due to a relatively new research area, which is mainly discussed in the scientific field of media, film and information studies as well as in communication science and political science, more or less in peace research and in global and regional studies. An important role is playing by the media itself, in particular newspapers and the internet. Written books about this issue are still quite rare.

The most important representatives of written literature in consideration of media and Arab Spring are Wael Ghonim and Lina Ben Mhenni. Ben Mhenni is working as a university lecturer at the University of Tunis. She describes herself as an internet activist and political blogger, fighting for human rights and against censorship. Her book, published 2011 in French in a German publishing house, is called “Tunisian Girl - Biogueuse pour un printemps arabe”[7]. It can simply translated as “Get connected”.

A second so called internet activist is Ghonim. Bom in Cairo he was voted as one of the most influential personalities by the American “Time Magazine”. He can be described as a key figure during the revolution in Egypt, nowadays he is well-known around the world. His book, published last year, entitled “Revolution 2.0”[8], includes the following sub-headline: “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

Both, Ben Mhenni and Ghonim, used their power gained during the protest wave to publish a book and to discuss this issue in the publicity. But they are not the only one who were dealing about that.

The state of research within printed articles needs to be evaluated as comprehensive. In the scientific field Ramesh Srinivasan[9], an Associate Professor in Media/Information Studies at University of California in Los Angeles, who was already mentioned in the introduction, is playing a leading role. He published and he is still publishing countless numbers of articles, usually in the internet, in magazines or newspapers.

A second nucleus can be found in different institutions, think tanks, universities and governmental or non-governmental organisations around the globe. One of the most important was written by Echo Keif and published by George Mason University, Washington D.C.: “We Are All Khaled Said: Revolution and the Role of Social Media.”[10] The German Institute for Foreign Relations[11], placed in Stuttgart, has to be mentioned here, as well as the International Association for Media and Communication Research[12], the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)[13] and “Freedom House”. The NATO was also dealing intensively about this topic.

2. Definitions

2.1 Arab Spring

The term “Arab Spring” is defined by the online encyclopaedia “Britannica” as follows: “Wave of pro-democracy protests and uprisings that took place in the Middle East and North Africa beginning in 2010 and 2011, challenging some of the region’s entrenched authoritarian regimes. Demonstrators expressing political and economic grievances faced violent crackdowns by their countries’ security forces,”[14] The protest movement, started in Tunisia and Egypt, was called “Jasmine Revolution” by the media. The movement spread over the countries quickly and overwhelmed the security forces in the Arab world. “The effects of the Arab Spring movement were felt elsewhere throughout the Middle East and North Africa as many of the countries in the region experienced at least minor pro-democracy protests. In Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman, rulers offered a variety of concessions, ranging from the dismissal of unpopular officials to constitutional changes, in order to head off the spread of protest movements in their countries.”[15]

2.2 Media

The term “media” in general can be defined as an “umbrella term covering all technological means which are used for circulation of information, especially for communicative devices”[16]. Newspapers, magazines, books, posters, radio, television, movies as well as the internet can be count to the so called “communicative devices”. These examples are, together with e­mails, internet blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a part of the global mass media. They are “usually less influential than the social environment, but they are still significant, especially in affirming attitudes and opinions that are already established”[17]. Mass media can “reinforce latent attitudes and ‘activate’ them, prompting people to take action”[18]. It also plays another important role by giving individuals the possibility to know what other people in their social environment think and by providing political leaders a large amount of followers. “In this way the media make it possible for public opinion to encompass large numbers of individuals and wide geographic areas. It appears, in fact, that in some European countries the growth of broadcasting, especially television, affected the operation of the parliamentary system. ”[19] In consideration of the discussed issue of Libya it has to be mentioned that in areas, in those mass media are not well developed, e.g. in developing countries or in countries where the media are under control of political leaders, the oral communication is usually able to perform almost the same functions as broadcasting and press, even though slower and content-related limited. “In developing countries, it is common for those who are literate to read from newspapers to those who are not, or for large numbers of persons to gather around the village radio or a community television.”[20]

A further part of mass media can be recognized in news media. It is focussing on “the public’s attention on certain personalities and issues, leading many people to form opinions about them”[21]. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other internet portals are a part of social media or social network.


[1] Al Jazeera: Taking power through technology in the Arab Spring, viewed on, retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[2] lb., retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[3] Twitter Revolution. How the Arab Spring was helped by Social Media, viewed on, retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[4] lb., retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[5] Small Wars Journal: Social Media and the Arab Spring, viewed on media-and-the-arab-spring, retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[6] Al Jazeera: Taking power through technology in the Arab Spring, retrieved on 24th of January 2013.

[7] Lina Ben Mhenni: Vernetzt euch!, Berlin 2011.

[8] Wael Ghonim: Revolution 2.0. The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power. A Memoir, New York 2012.

[9] Al Jazeera: Taking power through technology in the Arab Spring, retrieved on 25th of January 2013.

[10] Echo Keif: We Are All Khaled Said. Revolution and the Role of Social Media, Fairfax 2011.

[11] Anja Türkan: Digital Diplomacy. Der Wandel der Außenpolitik im digitalen Zeitalter, Stuttgart 2012.

[12] Annabelle Srebemy: New Media and the Middle East. Thinking allowed, in: University of Michigan: Journal, No. 2 (Spring 2012), viewed on: spring_iijoumal_articlel_srebemy.pdf, retrieved on 29th of January 2013.

[13] Alex Comninos: Twitter revolutions and cyber crackdowns. User-generated content and social networking in the Arab spring and beyond, 2011.

[14] Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Arab Spring, viewed on, retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[15] lb., retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[16] Bibliographisches Institut & F.A. Brockhaus AG: Medien, viewed on be21_article.php?document_id=0x0919d990@be, retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[17] Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Public Opinion. The mass media, viewed on EBchecked/topic/482436/public-opinion/258760/The-mass-media#ref397897, retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[18] lb., retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[19] lb., retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[20] lb., retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

[21] lb., retrieved on 26th of January 2013.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


The Role of Media during the Arab Spring with Particular Focus on Libya
Charles University in Prague  (Faculty of Social Sciences)
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ISBN (Book)
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Arab Spring, Libya, Media, Role of Media, Arab Awekening, Arab Uprising, Arabischer Frühling, Libyen, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Mass Media, Social Media, Social Network, Soziale Netzwerke, Revolution, Tunisia, Tunesien, Middle East, North Africa, Naher Osten
Quote paper
B.A. Eric Holtschke (Author), 2013, The Role of Media during the Arab Spring with Particular Focus on Libya, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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