“News, activism and social media: Reporting the Egyptian Revolution and its aftermath by Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, RT and XINHUA”
ABSTRACT - PhD thesis
The early days of the January 25th Revolution received unprecedented international media coverage that kept the world’s viewers on the edge of their seats watching the plunge of another corrupt Arab regime, shortly after Bin Ali’s collapse in Tunisia. Toppling Mubarak’s regime was the most significant achievement of the January 25th Revolution, yet events that occurred under the interim military regime that followed Mubarak’s rule also received extensive media coverage. Media focus on the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) was not only because such events, collectively, represented a crucial transitional stage to a new democratic Egypt, but also because of their dramatic nature of re-occurring bloody clashes between the January 25th Revolutionaries and SCAF. As the new military regime, like Mubarak’s, continued to clash with revolutionaries and protesters, social media-equipped activists continued to feed the cyberspace with anti-SCAF content, which was then pitched up and broadcasted by news media to millions of viewers inside and outside Egypt. This thesis focuses on examining the impact of an evolving relationship between news organizations and social media-equipped activists on the coverage of the Egyptian Revolution and its associated events. By examining disparities in news coverage, it explores possible changes in journalism practices, and detects emerging patterns, particularly pertinent to journalist-source relationship and human rights reporting. While exploring possible changes in journalism practices, it also questions whether the existing normative media typology frameworks have been disrupted and as a result would invite media scholars to revise their typology/ macro approach in understanding changes in journalism practices across different media environments. The thesis’ findings have led to identifying three emerging patterns in the coverage: a counter-elite sourcing practice, human rights-centered reporting and a disruption in existing normative media typology frameworks. If these patterns continue to develop and consolidate, they might be seen as early features of a new ear in journalism practices. Using an integrated content-textual analysis, as a primary research method, the thesis analyzes the news coverage of the Egyptian Revolution and its associated events by the Arabic and the English news sites of five international news organizations: Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, RT and XINHUA. Textual analysis is used to look at possible lexical consonance between activists’ entries on social media and the non-attributed lexical choices identified in news stories. The textual analysis is supported by two sets of surveys that target Egyptian activists and journalists to explore their insights about their relationship during the Egyptian Revolution and its aftermath.