Tuesday, March 17, 2009
'arab media today' conference in london
Some pictures from the excellent conference 'The Arab Media Today: New Audiences and New Technologies' held yesterday in the Brunei Gallery of London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). The event was organised by the SOAS's London Middle East Institute with support from the Media Outreach Center of the US Embassy in London and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation. The day started with a session on assessing Arab audiences, chaired by Dina Matar of the Centre for Film and Media Studies. It then moved to a session on Old and New Media chaired by Dr Naomi Sakr, reader in Communication at the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster, and Director of the CAMRI Arab Media Centre.
Marc Lynch - AKA blogger Abu Aardvark - of George Washington University - chaired the third session, on the Arab Blogosphere. This session brought to London some of the Arab world's best known bloggers - Wael Abbas of Egypt (chief blogger at Misr Digital), Naseem Tarawnah (Black Iris) of Jordan, Olfa Jami of Tunisia and Ali Abdulemam of Bahrain. The Syrian IT and new media researcher and consultant Anas Tawileh of Syria, spoke on the Syrian blogosphere in this session; he had already given an eye-opening presentation on the emergence of Arabic new media in the light of Web 2.0 in the previous session. The conference provided many invaluable notes, pointers and nuggets. The were titters in the audience when Mariam Abu-Adas of 7iber.com, who blogs at Driven by Curiosity, included in her presentation a table on the findings of an ISP on the top 25 web search terms in the Arab world: no prizes for guessing what the terms were. The top search terms also included references to Sex and the City and to the immmensely popular Turkish soap opera Noor which follows the ups and downs of the relationship between Noor and her husband Muhannad.
Speakers gave fascinating and sometimes hair-raising accounts of the price that blogger activists can pay at the hands of Arab governments and security forces, and of the cat-and-mouse games bloggers play with the authorities - over for example the blocking of blogsites and attempts at identity detection or at discrediting bloggers seen as troublesome. Wael Abbas (pictured at the top of the posting) is an example par excellence of an Egyptian activist blogger and gave a full account of the "unique" Egyptian blogosphere which has helped cirulate videos on such practices as sodomisation of a male detainee in a police station, vote rigging, and police brutality against demonstrators. Wael's mention of the fact that he is keen to use Egyptian slang rather than classical Arabic in his blogging, so as to encourage youth participation, led to quite a bit of discussion over the choice of Arabic language in blogs. Wael has his own YouTube channel.
Pictures from top: Wael Abbas; Marc Lynch; Maher Othman (deputy editor-in-chief of al-Quds.com), Ali Abdulemam: Anas Tawileh; Mariam Abu-Adas Below - Maha Taki (PhD scholarshp student University of Westminster, London, currently researching use of the internet, and in particular blogs, in Lebanon and Syria); (L ) Khaled Elshami (presenter of Awraq Misria on al-Hiwar TV) with Faisal Abbas (editor of the weekly media supplement of Asharq al-Awsat); Jihad Fakhreddine (Regional Research Director for the Middle East and North Africa for the Gallup World Poll), with Dina Matar; Will Ward (managing editor of Arab Media & Society); Hosam El Sokkari (head of BBC Arabic).