Friday, 23 May 2014

Arab Media Forum 2014 Q&A

Transcript of "Do Arab papers face extinction?" 

Q1: An analyst at the Arab Media Forum 2014, being held in Dubai this week, said he believes traditional print media in the Middle East – newspapers - could be extinct within a few years. Do you think the influence of traditional print media in the Middle East is on the wane? 
  • YES! The Middle East is increasingly dominated by a youth population who are turning to social media for their news. This is similar to the trend that emerged over a decade ago when the population turned away from local television channels to international satellite for their news. That being said, for now, the older generation will continue to rely on newspapers and television for news- though even with that demographic we are seeing a shift as more and more people (especially within the elite) are realising the importance of the medium- especially in engaging with the youth demographic.
Q2: Is there a perception, particular by young people, that newspapers in the region are mouthpieces of a particular country’s government and not to be trusted?
  • Absolutely and with good reason- both newspapers and local television channels are increasingly polarised towards one side or another. For example, in Egypt- following the ouster of President Morsi in 2014, we have been seeing a lot of anti Muslim Brotherhood propaganda on many private satellite channels and state-owned newspapers. This is also the case with channels sympathetic towards the Muslim Brotherhood channels, operating outside of Egypt. Syrian state media is another case in point. 

Q3: A report presented at this year’s Arab Media Forum claims that in 2013, out of a total of 135 million Internet users in the Middle East, 71 million of those are active on social media, and nearly 30 per cent of those said social media was their primary source of news. Why is social media is such a big thing in the Middle East? 
  • As I mentioned before, young people -who currently represent almost 25% of population-  are increasingly turning to social media for news. The controversial term the "Facebook Revolution" was coined for a reason, and that was a recognition of the impact of social media in enabling activists to mobilise with ease. Social media has also been an important platform for discussion of various issues and developments which is something very new and exciting for young people, giving them a sense of liberation particularly as this is really the first time that they have had the opportunity to be heard and engage with the larger political and social issues at stake.
Q4: Would you say the majority of news stories being shared on Facebook for example, are not from print media sources, but from so-called “citizen journalism” sources, like blogs and Twitter feeds? Or are predominantly from professional media outlets?
  • I'd say a significant proportion of English language Facebook posts and Tweets are from print media sources. But there are also a lot based on "citizen journalism" sources (and this is particularly true of Arabic language social media, especially in Syria where local coordination committees relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to publicise and track developments on the ground at the beginning of the uprising). Moreover, in the case of Syria, mainstream media has not been permitted to enter the country and thus citizen journalism has played a very important role. Unfortunately, not all of these have been reliable and are difficult to verify. There have been instances of false footage being used and even the BBC has been caught out for using old photos from Iraq in it's coverage of Syria 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Syrian rebel withdrawal from Homs

Hundreds of rebels were evacuated from their final stronghold in the central Syrian city of Homs, dubbed the capital of the revolution, on 7 May. The move came under a ceasefire deal struck last week between government forces and rebel fighters.

The overwhelming reaction amongst Syrian and foreign Twitter users was shock as photographs of the devastated city circulated online. @weddady said: “The images coming out of Homs look like the color version of Stalingrad in 1943”, hash-tagging the tweet with #BasharApocalypse. @yarooshkaa lamented that "The dream has gone" 

Opposition supporters tweeted under the Arabic hash-tag “Thank you heroes of Homs” and tried to spin the truce as a victory over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Lebanon's March the 14th alliance, which is supportive of the Syrian opposition, posted an article on their Facebook and Twitter platforms which was widely circulated. The article explained that the Free Syrian Army had achieved a symbolic victory by remaining in the besieged city for 38 months and the Assad regime had been unable to drive them out by force.

Supporters of rival opposition groups, notably those with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), dismissed this view. @Lingers219 remarked: “First time I know that surrendering your land to the enemy and releasing its prisoners means a great victory".

Government backers, however, were quick to celebrate with the pro-regime Homs News Network posting on Facebook: "This is Homs. This is the Syrian Arab Army. Good morning freedom".

Other posts were more aggressive such as @Okeanos963 saying: "Same signs of savagery that took over my city Homs in 2011. Media in the west wants to call these savages 'Freedom fighters'."

Rebel fighters explained their position eloquently on posters on Twitter such as one circulated by @Zado00 which said: "By the God that that raised the heavens, the only reason we left is hunger, hunger, hunger. We will go to eat and then return"

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Muslim Brotherhood "not to exist" - Egyptian presidential runner Al-Sisi

In his first interview with Egyptian TV, the presidential runner, Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi, defended the protest law and said that the Muslim Brotherhood will "not exist" during his presidency.
Al-Sisi gave the two-hour-long recorded interview to Presenters Ibrahim Isa and Lamis al-Hadidi of private ON TV and CBC TV stations respectively. A second episode will be broadcast on 6 May by the two TVs.
Al-Sisi is considered to be the front-runner in Egypt's presidential election, slated for 26 and 27 May.
He promised a "corrective policy" towards the Islamic discourse and vowed to prevent the country from collapsing.

"Not to exist"

"The country will not survive with its political, social and religious fabric if the Muslim Brotherhood's kind of thoughts rule again," Al- Sisi said.
He was answering a question about his earlier remarks that the Muslim Brotherhood should start reconciling with the society and not the other way round.
Asked on whether those who will vote for him will guarantee that Muslim Brotherhood will not exist during your presidency, Al-Sisi said: "Yes, exactly." "I cannot have any plans against God but I am responsible if I win to have real corrective policies regarding religious issues," he said.
Al-Sisi also said: "I have not ended the group. You, Egyptians did when you said: 'No' on 30 June and now. The problem of the Muslim Brotherhood lies with the Egyptian people and not me."


On Salafists, he said that the constitution bars parties on religious basis. But he also said that anybody could run in parliamentary elections when asked about his remarks that there will be no exclusion to Islamists who are not involved in violence.
Al-Sisi also called on voters to carefully choose their president and MPs because this will influence their future.

Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Sisi also said the Muslim Brotherhood has done "much harm to Egyptians," not only during the recent eight months since Islamist president Muhammad Morsi's downfall or during his one-year, but also through ruling Egypt in accordance to their own thoughts rather than the "contract" Egyptians voted them for.
"The Muslim Brotherhood should have respected the constitution and the rule of the law and this did not happen," he explained.
Answering a question on whether he expected the violence that erupted after Morsi's downfall, Al-Sisi said that the "thoughts of the Islamist groups include the inevitability of confrontation with the society as other people were believed to be infidels by them".
"These groups think that they are superior because of religion," he said.
He said that one of their leaders, named by Al-Hadidi as Khayrat al-Shatir, "threatened" him that he will bring fighters from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and everywhere to fight Egyptians and the army in case Morsi was deposed. "Egyptians will not be intimidated," Al-Sisi said.
He also said that the "Muslim Brotherhood are fighting behind different titles so that the mainstream members do not get accused of anything," referring to groups like the Sinai-based Jihadist Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

Islamic discourse

Al-Sisi complained about the kind of the present Islamic discourse in the world which "made Islam lose its humanitarian side".
"This is grave. God is being presented in a way that does not suit his great position. All of us and the rulers as well should reconsider their positions because God will question all of us in the hereafter," he said. Asked whether the ruler should be a preacher, he said: "Not a preacher. But he should be aware and accountable. I am a leader of the people. I should not see another [religious] leader speaking to the people and I am just watching. I am accountable."
Asked whether he will interfere if a preacher gives a wrong discourse, he said that during the Islamic times in history, Muslim had a civil rather than a religious state." Speaking about the Islamist state deposed president Morsi was trying to found, he said that there has to be good judgement and good practise of religion, which include the respect of the state of the law. "People cannot sabotage, destroy and kill in the name of God. This is a grave abuse of religion," he said.
"God is the one who will hold people accountable for praying or not. Islamist thought should be subject to reconsideration," he added.

Protest law

On the protest law and the imprisonment of activists, Al-Sisi said that security will not prevail amid chaos and the protest law was one of the tools to prevent chaos.
"The protest law organizes and does not ban protesting," he said.
"You have the right to protest and you will be allowed to protest, but we [officials] will not allow this country to collapse," he angrily said.
Asked whether the country will collapse because of protests, he said: "Yes. Because of the state of chaos we [Egyptians] are living in." Asked about the danger terrorism rather than protests poses, he said: "Yes, along with irresponsible [without-permit] protests."


"Stabili ty and security will be prioritized along with development," Al-Sisi said when he was asked about his vision for the country.
He said that Egyptians cannot live on 7 per cent of their area and that Egypt has debts. He also said that it is "unacceptable" to have 12 million unemployed people.
Al-Sisi promised when he wins to provide jobs, increase tourism, houses, and mining opportunities. He spoke about the development of Sinai.
On combatting terrorism, he said that this will be gradual and take time. He also said that there is keenness to make a balance between the security situation and human rights.
"Our role will be to end doubts [people have] and replace them with confidence," he said. "The presidential platform is a dream that could be achieved," he also said.

"Good example in every way"

On why he did not appear except in official occasions when he was in office and resorted to silence since he had declared running for presidency, he said: "Silence was a necessity in reality. The main reason is that if I represent for Egyptians the hope that they are longing for or the future they aspire, I will have to consider that they only see the good things in me and I should give them a good example in every way."
"When we are speaking about the state of the law, the decisions of the High Election Commission (HEC) [not to start campaigning before 3 May] become a law and I have to respect this decision to give the [good] example," he added
Al-Sisi said that after he resigned from the Defence Ministry, he had started to meet many people from various walks of lives after at a wide scale. "I met all the hues [of people], intellectuals, and scientists to speak about their visions of the future and how to push this country forward," he said.

Silence, communication

"Too much talk reduces good content," he said.
When asked by Ibrahim Isa whether he will be the "silent president," he eagerly said: "No, one of the mistakes of the previous systems is not communicating with the people. No, the people have to know and understand because if they know and understand [the situation], there will be no problems."

Denial of prior plans to take power

Al-Hadidi asked him whether he had a calculated plan to take power when he gave an ultimatum to Islamist president Muhammad to listen to the people and hold a referendum. He replied: "Let me present myself to the people in a good way. I would not respect myself if I think this way by making a plan to take power. I would not respect myself and I would have not respected the people or the will of Egyptians I am speaking about. The statement of 3 July 13 was very clear. I said the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court is the interim president of Egypt and there is a prime minister and a government without interference from my side."
On Morsi's downfall, he said that the army "did not make a conspiracy or consult any internal or external parties".
"The army did not rule then and it is not ruling now," he said. He also said that if he is elected as president, the army will "not rule," denying he is the candidate of the army.
Nevertheless, later in the interview, he said that the state has to help the police regain its capability in spreading security. And putting his hand on his chest he said: "If a demand was presented to us [the army], we will help."

Reasons behind running for president

Answering a question by Al-Hadidi why he changed his opinion and chose to run for president, he said: "There were challenges against Egypt and it was targeted in home and from abroad. This makes any patriotic person -in charge and who has the chance to take a step forward and protect this country, the people and their future- take the initiative."
"There are fears of danger and of the country's collapse. I could have never left the people. Nobody can come near [threaten] Egypt. No. There are people who can protect it against internal and external threats," he said with determination.
He also said that he was keen to comply with "the wishes of the simple Egyptians". "If we love and respect Egyptians, their orders must be enforced [by the army]. Egyptians are the higher authority of this country," he added.
"Remember the extent of concern Egyptians felt after 3 July and 14 August 13, the dire security situation and how the outer world dealt with us. Egyptians demanded an action. Please, go ahead [Egyptians' call on Al-Sisi to nominate himself] and this was clear on the day of the referendum," he also said. "The lives of millions of Egyptians are at risk," he noted. Al-Sisi explained that the army writes reports on public opinion.
He then confirmed Isa's remark that he took the decision to run on 27 February 14.
On whom he consulted before running for president, he said: "The family." "My wife told me you do not have a choice. We [Al-Sisi's family] certainly love you, but this nation will collapse," he said.
He then spoke about the awareness of Egyptian women who are afraid about the future of their children. He also praised the role of Egyptian women in the past and future phases.

Assassination attempts

Asked by Al-Hadidi whether he was concerned about his own safety when he decided to run, Al-Sisi said he accepts his destiny. "Nobody will give or take life from me. Every breath is calculated [by God]," he noted.
He also said that he was subject to two assassination attempts without giving the details.


Al- Sisi said that he was brought up as an Egyptian Muslim in Al-Jamaliyah, one of the oldest districts in Cairo, "where nobody defiled the Jewish synagogue or the Church in any way".
"There were cultural, human and civilizational diversity without any limits," he said.

Late president Abd-al-Nasir

The presidential runner spoke about his decision to join the air force school after the Egyptian air force was bombed in the 1967 War. "This is why I joined military," he said.
"I was the first in my family to enrol in the military," he also said.
"I have seen the look of pain and defeat in the eyes of Egyptians after the 1967 defeat. This look that many young Egyptians are not aware of now," he added.
He also expressed his love for late president Abd-al-Nasir and he hoped he would be like him. Comparing him to Abd-al-Nasir, he said: "This is too much. I hope I would deserve such a position."


A smiling Al-Sisi said he decided to marry his wife when he was in school and married her after completing the military academy.
He praised his "kind" and "devoted" wife.
He also said that he has four children: three sons and a girl, Mahmud, who works in intelligence, Mustafa, who works in the administrative auditing authority, Hasan and, the girl, Ayah. He added that Hasan applied at the Foreign Ministry twice and did not pass its exam, saying that he is against favouritism.


On criticism levelled and to be levelled to him, he said: "I will tolerate." He also said that excesses on the internet are a "wave that will end," but he also said that respect should prevail. He added that media together with education and religious institutions should play a role to raise ethical standards together with the law.

Source: CBC TV, Cairo, in Arabic 1900gmt 05 May 14

Friday, 2 May 2014

Algerian social media users lash out at Egypt's candidate's threats of invasion

Algerian social media users have lashed out at "invasion" comments made by Egyptian presidential candidate Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi. 
Privately-owned mass circulation Algerian newspaper El-Khabar website reported on 30 April that during a meeting with Egyptian university chiefs, the former field marshal said: "The Egyptian army is strong and before anything happens to anyone in the west [in North Africa, west of Egypt], the army will be there. This is a warning to the Free [Egyptian] Army, if anything happens. I would be able to enter Algeria in three days if anything happened to any [Egyptian] individual."

"Not strange" of Al-Sisi to insult Algeria  

Al-Sisi' remarks, made on 30 April, were quickly picked up by Algerian media and elicited great anger among Algerian social media users.
 On Twitter, Algerian user @karimane80 tweeted in Arabic that "Al-Sisi slaughtered his people and burnt them, he sold his religion and military honour so it is not strange that he should insult Algeria. This is the greatest sign of his failure and that his end is near and his project and those that are with him and behind him". 
Another Algerian user quipped in Arabic "The pimp Al-Sisi said that he could invade Algeria in three days but it will be [popular Egyptian actresses] Ilham Shahin and Nadya Ilwi who will invade or the army that had killed children at [the Muslim Brotherhood's main protest strongholds of] Rabi'ah [al-Adawiya Mosque and Square]". 
Algerian @SpecialOne_Dz tweeted in Arabic: "To Al-Sisi… Algeria is not Rabi'ah [al-Adawiyah] square for you to invade in three days, as you are calling for, you criminal".
@SenouciAyache said in Arabic: "Poor Algeria… Even Al-Sisi is after it." (, while Algerian @anwarmalek tweeted: "It is said that Al-Sisi announced his army's willingness to defend Algeria and others against 'terrorism'; I say, as an Algerian, that 'being defended by an army that slaughtered its own people is not an honour'".

"Algerians just want to fight"

Egyptians were largely dismissive of the reports, with users such as @TheSecular tweeting in Arabic: "Algerians just want to fight. Algerian newspapers have reported that Al-Sisi said he would invade Algeria because of the terrorists. What stupidity and craziness! Anyway they [the terrorists] are all in Libya.".
Al-Sisi's campaign team was quick to deny the reports, issuing a statement published in Egyptian newspaper Al-Shuruq on 2 May. According to the report, Al-Sisi had simply said that the Egyptian army was capable of defending Egypt's borders and was willing to assist other Arab countries in the fight against Islamic extremism.

Friday, 15 November 2013

A few thoughts on Revolution

Sometimes we just have to admit defeat and realise that the promise of glory was just a dream. People like us shall admit someday that we just stood back and watched others eke out a living in the dust and grime that is our country- or at least the part that we are never privy to- while we debate and hypothesise and spread our vitriol across the pages of social media, newspapers, and magazines, but this will never make a difference to the suffering of the silent majority.
What is it about people like us, so comfortable in our first world problems, that makes us believe we have the privilege to disrupt the balance of history? 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Liaisons Dangereuses

So usually I hate this kind of psycho-babble, agony aunt stuff but an article in Psychology Today caught my eye and some aspects struck me as being spot on.
Ken Page, a psychotherapist, discusses what he terms as “attractions of deprivation” and "attractions of inspiration"–  the latter did not interest me as much as the former which refers to a condition which I suspect we all experience, at some point, when we are drawn to people who embody the worst emotional characteristics of our parents. Basically, the theory explains that we are attracted to people who can wound us the same way we were wounded in our childhood, as our psyche tries to recreate the past void and save us by changing its ending.
Is it possible to change that ending or are we destined to just repeat that cycle over and over? What can we do to break that cycle?
Page explains that "Many of us believe that attractions of deprivation are real love, because they draw us in so powerfully. When these attractions let us down, we believe it's because of a lack in us, not because of a fatal flaw embedded in the attractions themselves....Most of us are wired to want the hard-to-get. People who devalue us make us want to convince them of our worth. These are our circuitries of deprivation. And, as compelling as they are, they rarely lead to happiness or lasting love."

This is very true...for some reason many people, in my experience this tends to be mainly women, prefer to blame their characters for their faults rather than admit to errors of judgement. This kind of self flagellation is extremely counter productive and merely ends in a repetition of mistakes due to the fact that the individual is hoping that 'this time things will be different', rather than acknowledging a simple miscalculation which can be corrected in future.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Life Lessons

Learning to that's the hardest thing. Learning how and then who.