Speaking Truth to Power: How Al Jazeera is Challenging and Improving Egyptian Journalism
U.C.S.B. CMES Conference, 2007
23 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2013
Date Written: May 5, 2007
Changes in communication technology that occur during the alignment of particular historical forces can result in changes to organizational forms and institutions that favor certain configurations of power over others. Constitutive choices about the social and political uses of a communication technology, the legal and regulatory framework adopted, and additional factors influence the path of development taken, the institutions created, and the alignment of interests. Changes in the modes of communication in the Middle East favored the popularization of Al Jazeera because it adapted to a dispersed audience and fed the 24-hour news cycle with information that stood out because of its newness, opposition to the status quo, and transgression of traditional boundaries. Not only was it posed to take advantage of the emerging information environment in the last decade of the twentieth century, it reinforced the changes taking place and helped usher in a new era of competition and professionalism. Based on ethnographic research in Egypt, this paper focuses on how Al Jazeera influenced change in the Egyptian journalistic field. The principles of Einsteinian physics help explain how the satellite news media, but especially Al Jazeera, are distorting the logic of journalism as it has traditionally been practiced, and causing the political field to adapt to a new media logic of visibility and accountability. Although much has been written about the station from Qatar, little has been said about the mechanisms of change or the processes that link the channel to the major political changes envisioned for the region. This paper positions Al Jazeera in the field of Arab and Egyptian journalism, using empirical evidence to show how the imperative of competition and emphasis on professionalism have caused incremental changes in the Egyptian journalistic field, with significant implications for state power and control over the public.
Keywords: Arab media, Al Jazeera, journalism, news, communication, Middle East
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