Social and political change in the Arab world through new media

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) has a good write up of an event held recently in London that looked at the impact of new media, the web and Internet on polity and society in the Arab world. It notes that,

Keeping up or catching up, respectively, with world standards of communication infrastructure, the Arab and Muslim nations could not help but at the same time create opportunities for the distribution and exchange of news and opinion that did not exist before.

Some of the most interesting presentations on the impact of new media and (mobile) communications writ large I have witnessed are from the Arab world. Time and again I have been fascinated at how repressive regimes and hugely conservative (not to be necessarily confused or conflated with backward) cultures are grappling with the challenges posed by citizen producing, accessing and disseminating news and information through the web, mobiles and the Internet.

Over a year ago, I catalogued some of the most interesting blogs / bloggers in the Arab world based on a story by Gal Beckerman called the The New Arab Conversation. In the interim, many regimes have jailed or persecuted independent voices in the blogosphere that have dared to criticise them.

As the EJC notes the growth of new media in the Arab region,

…does not necessarily mean that the Arab nations are now on the fast track to European-style democratisation and open societies. Rather, they may be on the way to modernise their own traditions, however difficult and painful that might turn out to be in any given case.

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