The press and the Arab spring: six reasons for failure

Chris Doyle writes:

Most people in the West, analysts and experts included, were stunned and amazed at the revolts which spread across the Arab World that started in Tunisia in January. At least, they were surprised at the speed, the scale and the breadth of the popular movements and that they were largely non‐violent and non‐sectarian. Few were surprised that they were met with violence. This sadly seems to have been the default setting of too many of the region’s regimes.

It has been an extraordinary media event as well, with 24‐hour news stations devoting huge resources to covering the Arab Spring, creating mesmerising images, especially during the 18 days that shook Egypt.

Yet the reality was all the ingredients for such uprisings were present and well known. Events in Tunisia had been bubbling for some time, with Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid at the centre of socioeconomic discontent. Egypt too had been in turmoil with increased workers’ strikes and opposition action. In most Arab states, there is a dangerous combination of high unemployment, high food prices and corruption together with a lack of political freedom and abuse of human rights. Perhaps the more pertinent question is why such uprisings had not happened before?

It begs the question as to why the media were part of a collective failure: how come there was no sense in the press of this impending tempest that has swept away two Presidents, four Prime Ministers, and has shaken every regime from Morocco to Iran?

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