Second Tranche of Media in Political Transition in Full Swing
The University of Cambridge - Al Jazeera Media Project’s second research programme on media dynamics in Morocco and Turkey had its first conference on December 12th, 2015 at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. The workshop, entitled ‘Media in Political Transition: The cases of Turkey and Morocco’ brought together original research by the project’s two separate academic teams, one based in Morocco, the other in Turkey.
Launched in 2013, the Project’s first research programme focused on media in Tunisia post Arab Uprising. In 2014, the Project was extended significantly, as a result of the generosity of Al Jazeera Media Corporation, enabling two teams of scholars to conduct similar research on media in political transition in Morocco and Turkey.
This mid-study workshop brought our work together for the first time. The purpose of extending this research to Turkey and Morocco was to enable a comparative study of media systems along the breadth of the Mediterranean littoral, based on the same research definitions employed in Tunisia, and following many of the same themes: internet freedom and surveillance, political narrative, social media use, gender issues on television and within the larger public sphere, the professionalism and partisanship of the sector, the rise of Islamic media, and the internal competition of political elites to utilize the media for particularist purposes. Likewise, a thematic focus on three broad areas of investigation, namely, structure (the relationship of the media with laws and practices of government), function (the media as a commercial sector in relation to the market, both private and public), and agency (the media as an instrument of the public square, in terms of audience engagement and the construction of national narratives, including security, identity and religious practice).
The conference was opened with introductory words by Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian, the project’s Principal Investigator and Dr. Ezzeddine Abdelmoula the Director of Research at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.
Professor Bouziane Zaid (Al Akhawayn University) presenting on 'Structure: Media in Political Transition, Morocco'
The panels were designed so that papers from both Turkey and Morocco addressed equivalent topics.
Panel I looked at the media structures in both countries and their historical transformations in the last three decades. They were followed by two papers on the evolution of social media dynamics and their embeddedness into the transitory framework.
Panel II analysed the media’s functional aspects. These were exemplified with two papers on contemporary radio broadcasting and its political and economic potentialities.
Panel III focused on the dimension of agency with case studies examining women talk shows, Islamist newspapers, and representations of ethnic conflict.
The concluding Roundtable aimed at summarising the conference insights and defining a follow-up research agenda. Professor John Naughton’s valuable introduction on the complexity of using theory as an initial method of approaching research questions, particularly when using prevalent concepts in our field, as transition (along the binary democratization-authoritarianism) and hybridity, was used as a chance to engage in the general approach to research questions and the role of theory thereby in our project.
It would be important not to postulate too much into the research questions and approach, thereby assuming possible findings as defining. The civil society-media binary would also be worth questioning, as media can only be meaningful through civil society.
We also agreed on the complex context- involving many variables- in which contemporary media are embedded and thus part of the continuing reproduction of political and socio-economic power relations and conditions.
In terms of organizational next steps an online workshop/roundtable and a mailing list including all participants were suggested in order to continue the discussion.
Yara Alnajjar and Ghassan Abu Hussein both based at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies will be contributing to the research project with a paper on how Al Jazeera has been covering media-related issues since the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Morocco, and Turkey.
Throughout the conference CIRMENA was tweeting together with the Al Jazeera Center for Studies using the hashtag #CAMAJ2015.
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