Online media, global TV and social networks played a significant role in the Arab Spring and will be important factors in determining the direction of these “revolutions”.
A positive contribution of the media to the consolidation of democratic systems requires a dismantling of the old media order, a reform of journalistic institutions, and a change of paradigm in the conception and practice of journalism. The keywords of these changes are freedom of expression, independence, public interest, ethics and excellence.
The profession is divided among the heirs of the old order, the “fellow travellers” of the new [mostly Islamist] majority, and a minority of “liberals” who see the media as a watchdog on the old and new powers. International actors can play a positive role in supporting the democratic transition if they devise a long-term strategy based on the creation of a new journalistic and media culture.
A selective approach is needed to focus resources on reinforcing press freedom groups; reframing training institutions; supporting key quality media; institutionalising public service broadcasting; strengthening press ethics not as an alibi for censorship, but as a lever for responsible journalism; and promoting diversity and gender equality in newsrooms and media contents. Creating a democratic media culture also requires reinforcing so-called “citizen journalism”, i.e. the media empowerment of the people, teaching media literacy especially in the school system, strengthening civil society’s communications and media skills, and setting up a state-funded but independent and impartial public information system.