This report assesses widespread claims that pan-Arab satellite news channels have been responsible for inciting sectarian violence during the Arab uprisings. Based on an empirical study of how three of the most popular channels – Al-Jazeera Arabic, Al-Arabiya and Al-Mayadeen - have framed seminal events involving violence between sects in Syria and Iraq, the report finds that while often geo-politically charged, some of these claims are valid. While abusive language or direct promotion of violence is rare in a mainstream context, incitement to sectarian violence has primarily been invoked through linguistic, stylistic and thematic tropes that forge legitimacy claims and narratives of victimhood. The paper draws on these findings to make recommendations for UK policymaker engagement with the Arab media.
Jessica Watkins is Research Officer at the Middle East Centre, currently working on a DFID-funded project looking at regional drivers of conflict in Iraq and Syria. The project ties in with Jessica’s previous research at the Rand Corporation into Iraqi and regional security issues. Her PhD at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, was on policing and dispute management in Jordan.
Ian Black (@ian_black) is Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE Middle East Centre and a former Middle East editor, diplomatic editor and European editor for the Guardian newspaper.
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