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- Written by Eman Jueid
- Category: World News
But as Tunisia’s revolution unfolded, and then moved onto to Egypt, Al Jazeera faced some immediate obstacles. The network was banned from covering events in Tunisia, and so it hired Lutfi Haji, who had already closed its embassy in Qatar during the coverage of 2009 elections in Tunisia, as an undercover correspondent. In Egypt, correspondents were reluctant to get information from citizens and editors at Al Jazeera were at first apprehensive about using new media technologies, but they were eventually forced to embrace these tactics through necessity. Through events like the Camel incident in Tahrir square that enraged the population and enflamed the revolution, Khanfar explained that the Arab Spring proved that the new ecosystem of social media is necessary for mainstream media to understand on-the-ground reality.
But the on-the-ground ramifications far outweighed the effects on news reporting, argued Khanfar. When the Internet was introduced in Tunisia the youth turned to as a tool for self-expression. "The first country that jailed bloggers was Tunisia. The first electronic protest was in Tunisia too" said Khanfar. The Internet gave Tunisians the power to unite against their government, fanning the flames of revolution with footage of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation circulating the social media sites.
In Egypt, social media allowed the youth and protestors to be spontaneous and adaptable, making on the spot decisions and building momentum through lateral networks, not the hierarchies of more traditional revolutions. Each member was treated equally.
Moving past the issues of social media, Khanfar also addressed the current challenges facing reconstruction after the Arab Spring. With low performing economies, these countries require the assistance of a type of Marshall Plan, argued Khanfar, to recover the region. Without economic security, he asserts, the positive results of the revolution continue to be at risk.
Khanfar furthermore asserted the moderate trend of once wholly conservative Islamist groups in the region. Arguing that Islamists will be moving away from ideology and toward pragmatism as leaders of their countries, Khanfar pointed to the evident change in behavior by these groups: "Islamic movements are making coalitions with secularists and leftists, they're willing to integrate into the community." Islamic movements are also turning to Turkey as a role model to move forward.
Khanfar is optimistic about the future of the Arab countries. The future is in the hands of the people, he says, but change requires time. Arabs have every right to be critical post-revolution, says Khanfar. "Do you expect the Arab governments to be right in one year?” Khanfar asked. “Can you transform ideologies of change in one year when dictators have caused corruption for decades?"
Khanfar believes the Arab spring will ultimately envelop the entire region: "If Arabs learn from those around them they will succeed...The clever amongst them will meet the people half way, like Morocco".
Khanfar’s Sharq forum was created as a new initiative to address peace, stability, and prosperity in the Arab world. It will also act as an umbrella for all groups to reach a consensus. Khanfar explains that the initiative wants to encourage Arab leaders and thinkers to engage one another with regards to their future.By Eman Jueid, Aslan Media Content Manager and Contributor
*Photo Credit: Eman Jueid
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