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The Arab Media's Shaky Awakening

Author: Robert McMahon, Managing Editor
May 2012
Foreign Service Journal


An activist media, and citizens' savvy use of online platforms, played an important role in the protests that turned out dictators in Egypt and Tunisia and ignited upheaval across the Arab world. But in the second spring since those uprisings, the growth of media freedom has been uneven in those states.

Satellite television channels have continued to grow in an already crowded market, Internet use has spread rapidly, and citizen journalism has assumed a vital watchdog function. Yet early actions by transitional leaders in each country have given cause for concern.

While Egypt has yet to pass laws underpinning press freedoms, it has cracked down on hundreds of civil society groups, signaling an intention to stifle freedom of expression. In Tunisia, high-profile cases against a newspaper and broadcaster have generated concern about the new leadership's commitment to media freedom. And ruling forces in both countries have reasserted control over still influential state media.

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