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Research Spotlight: "Arab Revolutions: Media Revolutions"

César Jiménez Martínez (PhD Media & Comm, 1st Year) chats with POLIS fellow Fatima El-Issaw to learn more about her research investigating the implications of the Arab Spring for traditional Arab news media.

Since January 2012 Fatima El-Issawi has led Arab Revolutions: Media Revolutions, a multi-country study focused on how the traditional Arab media is adjusting to the post-revolutionary transitions in the region. The project, which is managed by POLIS and funded by the Open Society Foundation, aims to study the implications of the Arab Spring for the practices and values of the Arab media scene in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya as defined by journalists themselves.

In aiming to understanding the transformation of and challenge to traditional Arab media, the project emphasises the perspective of journalists and explores the details of their daily lives.

El-Issawi maintains that the contextually rich field data collected by project researchers will not only be useful in providing insight into the changing practices of Arab media post revolutions, but will also serve as a template for discussion with journalists in media development schemes to explore the challenges they confront in the contemporary Arab media environment.

Hoping to address an important knowledge gap, the project contributes original data on the under-researched community of Arab journalists. “We are all the time in the field, talking to journalists and transforming what they are telling us into data that will feed academic knowledge and media development agents’ programmes and strategies to empower transitional media industries in the region” said El-Issawi.

At the moment El-Issawi’s team is focusing on disseminating the findings of the project which have been well received in the media and on the academic circuit. Their work has appeared in outlets such as Foreign Policy and the publication by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Additionally El-Issawi has spoken on her work at events hosted by the Council of Europe, Georgetown University and the Legatume Institute, the latter an independent advisory organisation.

This first phase of the project is due to end in July 2013, but El-Issawi is already planning the next stage which involves harnessing insights from the field data to create tools to empower Arab journalists. Her goal here is to provide Arab journalists with the opportunity of exchanging knowledge and experiences with fellow journalists within the Middle East and the UK through debate and critical discussion. ‘We don’t want to train them how to write,” explains El-Issawi, “but we [do] want to provide them with an exposure to debates at the heart of Western modern media within a format of newsroom to newsroom exchange.”

To find out more information about Arab Revolutions: Media Revolutions check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/ArabMediaRevolutions