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Freedom of expression and the role of social media in a post-revolution Arab world

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Etat de l'art de la liberté d’expression et le rôle des médias sociaux dans le monde arabe après les révolutions du printemps arabe

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Freedom of expression and the role of social media in a post-revolution Arab world

  1. 1. LIBERTÉ D’EXPRESSION ET RÔLE DES MÉDIAS SOCIAUX DANS LE MONDE ARABE POST-REVOLUTION Entre liberté, libertinage et traditions Mokhtar Ben Henda Chaire UNESCO-ITEN MICA, Université Bordeaux Montaigne FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN A POST-REVOLUTION ARAB WORLD Between freedom, libertinism and traditions
  2. 2. Freedom of expression in the Arab World two large perspectives 2018 Political (journalistic) Social (cultural, ethics)
  3. 3. Freedom of expression in the Arab World A journalistic perspective 2018 Political (journalistic)
  4. 4. Freedom of expression in the Arab World A social perspective Social (cultural, ethics)  Freedom of conscience (choice of a religion or refusal to have a religion),  Freedom of worship,  Freedom of opinion, thought, expression (in political, religious, philosophical matters),  Freedom of morals (sexuality),  Freedom of press,  Freedom of movement,  Freedom of association,  Economic freedom,
  5. 5. Social media: FB as a pathway to freedom 2017  Facebook Remains Dominant Social Media Platform In Arab World  Many journalists cite Facebook as a source of “preliminary” information from which to gather story ideas and build and understanding of the events and issues the population is interested in.  “Internet in Tunisia is pretty much Facebook,”
  6. 6. Social media: FB as a pathway to freedom Social networks, first as an underground means for revolutionary propaganda and political activism Then as an uncontrolled arena of ideological confrontation of extremes (political, religious, ethical, ...) The strictest conservatism coexists with the most liberal (and libertarian) audacities, under effect of virtuality, anonymization, digital propaganda, fake-news, etc.
  7. 7. Facebook: an agora of extremes Spread of FB groups with antagonist ideological trends
  8. 8. TWO MAJOR COMING-OUTS Two very special & exceptional “coming-outs” under impact of social networks - braving taboo and prohibition of:  Homosexuality  Atheism” Homosexuality Atheism
  9. 9. TWO MAJOR COMING-OUTS Two very sensitive social “coming-outs” eased by: Cultural paradox:  Religious texts that are explicitly using sexual taxonomy  َ‫َل‬ َ‫و‬‫وا‬ُ‫ح‬ِ‫ك‬ْ‫ن‬َ‫ت‬ِ‫ت‬‫ا‬َ‫ك‬ ِ‫ر‬ْ‫ش‬ُ‫م‬ْ‫ال‬‫ى‬َّ‫ت‬َ‫ح‬﴿ َّ‫ن‬ِ‫م‬ْ‫ؤ‬ُ‫ي‬٢٢١‫البقرة‬﴾  ‫إنكم‬‫شهوة‬ ‫الرجال‬ ‫لتأتون‬‫مسرفون‬ ‫قوم‬ ‫أنتم‬ ‫بل‬ ‫النساء‬ ‫دون‬ ‫من‬﴿‫األعراف‬80﴾  (ُ‫ح‬َ‫ك‬ْ‫ن‬ُ‫ت‬ٍ‫ع‬َ‫ب‬ ْ‫ر‬َ ِ‫أل‬ ُ‫ة‬َ‫أ‬ ْ‫ر‬َ‫م‬ْ‫ال‬:ِ‫ن‬‫ِي‬‫د‬ِ‫ل‬ َ‫و‬ ، ‫ا‬َ‫ه‬ِ‫ل‬‫ا‬َ‫م‬َ‫ج‬ِ‫ل‬ َ‫و‬ ، ‫ا‬َ‫ه‬ِ‫ب‬َ‫س‬َ‫ح‬ِ‫ل‬ َ‫و‬ ، ‫ا‬َ‫ه‬ِ‫ل‬‫ا‬َ‫م‬ِ‫ل‬َ‫اك‬َ‫د‬َ‫ي‬ ْ‫ت‬َ‫ب‬ ِ‫ر‬َ‫ت‬ ِ‫ِين‬‫الد‬ ِ‫ت‬‫ا‬َ‫ذ‬ِ‫ب‬ ْ‫ر‬َ‫ف‬ْ‫اظ‬َ‫ف‬ ، ‫ا‬َ‫ه‬)‫حديث‬ ‫نبوي‬  Social traditions, intolerant on using even sexual metaphores of religious texts (‫/العفة‬Pudisme Vs « ‫الدين‬ ‫في‬ ‫حياء‬ ‫َل‬ »/no shyness in religion)  A coming-out : Arabic homosexuality (LGBT+) Religious desecration:  Questioned by Heresy (‫,)زندقة‬ Blasphemy (‫,)كفر‬ Apostasy (‫)ردة‬ and Atheism (‫,)إلحاد‬ all made public on FB  A coming-out : Arabic atheism in Islamic land!!! Made public on social media and progressively tolerated by society Made public by social media but not tolerated in conventional media
  10. 10. Homosexuality: coming-out Although very common in all human societies, in the Arab world it is:  Religiously prohibited  Historically unrevealed  Socially practiced as everywhere  Intellectually avoided  Unveiled by FB
  11. 11. Homosexuality: expression through FB
  12. 12. Homosexuality: expression through FB  Group « Homosexuals »  Slogan : « Love is not a crime »  FB : 25 novembre 2010  14 k members  18 december 2010  Support group to Arabic LGBT community  9,5 k members
  13. 13. Homosexuality: expression through FB  Novembre 2011  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and similar communities;  8,5 k membres  12 jaune 2013  Club of respected homosexuals  1,5 k Membres  Restricted Club
  14. 14. Homosexuality: rights and decriminalization of LGBT  Since 2011, the demand for LGBT rights is gaining ground in many Arab countries, but the decriminalization of homosexuality still seems out of reach  In Lebanon, the LGBT community is particularly active:  2017 : first Gay Pride in the Arab world  12 July 2018 : the Lebanese Penal Code decriminalize homosexuality  In Tunisia, the associations law (2011) created a public debate on the decriminalization of homosexuality:  May 17, 2015: Creation of the Association Shams (sun) homosexuals in Tunisia  Article 230 of the Penal Code of year 1913 provides up to three years of jail for "sodomy! Between consenting adults (male / female) To challenge social resistance, protesting activism finds refuge on social media Countries where homosexuality is a crime
  15. 15.  Page FB : 31 octobre 2014 :  135 k membres  17 may 2015 : creation of SHAMS Association  15 decembre 2015 : Radio SHAMS :  2017 : Medalist by the city of Paris Homosexuality: resistance on FB
  16. 16. Free thinkers, religion and social media These atheists (almost) invisible in the Arab-Muslim world Man should also believe in man !.. … Good idea !. Then I can have some hollidays !
  17. 17. Atheism in Islam: back to the Middle ages There is a long and intellectual tradition of dissidence and freethinking going back to the Middle Ages (Al Mu’tazila) “History of Atheism in Islam” by Abdel-Rahman Badawi. Published in Arabic in 1945, the book was reprinted only once in 1993 Most prominent scholar figure was Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-925 CE) who believed in the supreme importance of reason
  18. 18. Arabic atheism revival The specter of atheism has always existed but started to haunt the Arabic world again since:  The attacks of 9/11, 2001  The Arab “Spring revolutions” in 2011  The killing against "Charlie Hebdo" January 7, 2015  The waves of apostasies … However, in the Arab world atheism remains less frontal, less detectable and less tolerated than homosexuality Finding refuge on social networks
  19. 19. Atheism in Arab world: widespread but hidden Searched Facebook in both Arabic and English, combining the word “atheist” with names of different Arab countries,  Over 250 pages or groups, with memberships ranging from a few individuals to more than 11,000  These numbers only pertain to Arab atheists (or Arabs concerned with the topic of atheism) who are committed enough to leave a trace online
  20. 20. Atheism: resistance on FB  "Religion is the creation of man"  Page created on 3rd septembre 2010  15 k membres  Atheists and non-religious Egyptians  Page created on 29th novembre 2012  Last post: april 2013  162 membres
  21. 21. Atheism: resistance on FB
  22. 22. Atheism: debate on FB
  23. 23. Atheism: debate on FB  “Fasting is a pagan tradition. The word ~ Ramadan ~ came from the word ~ Alramdha ~ and means the extreme heat. In that region where Saudi Arabia is now, the Sabians and the Pagans are calling for a month that comes in the middle of the very hot summer - Ramadan. They were sleeping during the day, working, eating and drinking at night. This was before the advent of Islam in many decades ...”  “It was first born pagan influences, Christianity and Judaism without forgetting the influence of India who had a disproportionate love for the Moon. There are infiltrations of these two religions in Islam. The latter, to present itself as a religion of purification, which is different from others, has chosen to resume their tradition to adapt to Koranic precepts”.
  24. 24. Atheism: parodia on FB One atheist comforted in his companion in the death of his mother: “God bless her and keep her in paradise ...” “Amazing! How believers like to eat apples which were the reason for their expulsion from Paradise! ...” “The Lord, his house is burning in Paris but he does not stir a finger ...”
  25. 25. Core findings Atheism in the Arab world opens up less quickly than homosexuality:  No atheists coming-out in the conventional media or family circles  Intellectuals struggle to follow in the footsteps of homosexuals  Media and politics make auto-censoring on the subject of atheism Using anonymization for free expression on social networks Yet social practices towards homosexuals and atheists violate both:  most of the human rights recognized by the various international human rights institutions ratified by their governments,  and several laws recognized and integrated into their internal legal systems (constitutions, laws).
  26. 26. Egypt: criminalizing atheism  For Al-Azhar mosque and the Coptic Church, :  "atheism is a threat that spreads especially among Egyptian youth”  Impose fines and prison sentences on "these criminals" and monitor the Internet and social networks  Between 2011 and 2013 ″Egyptian courts convicted 27 of 42 defendants on charges of contempt for religion,″ (The Guardian)  In 2014, Karim Ashraf Mohamed Al-Banna, 21, was jailed for three years by simply declaring he was an atheist on Facebook.  In March 2019, secret police have placed Sharif Gaber under a travel ban and threatened him with prison for 'blasphemy”.  The Egyptian Constitution, however, guarantees freedom of belief (but only for monotheist religions)
  27. 27. Tunisia: ALP, an association of atheists, 2017  October 25, 2017: Permission to found the Association of free thinkers (ALP)  Install secularism  Free claim to be non religious or atheist  2018: APL won the International atheism reward by Atheist Alliance International (AAI)  Practically, still not admitted by society  Still stigmatized by religious associations
  28. 28. Conclusion A post-Arab revolution “free expression era” is in danger Freedom of expression, the unique achievement of the Arab spring revolution, risks to be reversible and recursive: “freedom leading to oppression” “National unity” and “war on terrorism”: arguments for authorities to control the media sphere Fragmentation of the media sphere under political and ideological alignments Still much time to build a new culture of civil rights, free expression and respect of diversity

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