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A Final Reflection

How much do media matter?

I believe it matters a lot. I had this opinion before this class and after seeing the impact the lack of media can have it has broadened my perspective. Similar to what was said in the last post, I grew up in a country where media and expression were regularly seen, encouraged, and broadcasted. What was seen were all forms of opinions, criticisms, and questions on the government, the political system, the state, and the country as a whole. Taking this class has made me see how lucky I am to have this perspective.

The role of the media is to act as a check and balance system for the government. Journalism and broadcasting are ways of checking in on and critiquing the country and its politics and positions. The lack of these checks and balances allows the government to run wild without being held accountable by the people it’s supposed to serve. With the growth of social media, this form of accountability has become extremely easy. Social media has made a country’s business the world’s business and I believe this is extremely significant in creating a well-functioning international system of accountability. Governments in other countries and large human rights organizations can look at a country, for instance, Iran, and attempt to address and intervene in their executions of protestors.

While journalism, both nationally and internationally, can have positive effects I do believe there can be some negative aspects to it as well. The rise in social media has made everyone a potential activist and journalist. This makes it difficult to distinguish between the real story behind current events and stories lacking information or providing the wrong information. This easy spread of misinformation can lead to governments implementing laws and changing constitutions to “address” this issue. This ultimately leads to heavy regulation of media and information.


Religious Regulation in State and Media

Regulation of religious beliefs is a tricky topic to discuss because of how different the U.S. is from other countries in the world. The foundation of the U.S. is founded on providing freedoms to its people: freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, and freedom of religion. These base freedoms extend into other protected freedoms like privacy and expression. The freedom to express religion is a key factor in the U.S. so, it’s reasonable for my opinion on this matter to vary from someone else’s who’s had a different experience especially those in countries where there is one dominant religion. Concerning the media, here, the media isn’t shy about expressing a particular message or no message at all; it is up to the will of the people and those who control the media networks on whether they want to express a specific religious message.

There are forms of religious expression regulation seen in other countries. I think a form of this regulation can extend as far as allowing anyone to practice what they believe but, the regulation comes in when that religious belief is forced on to someone who 1) doesn’t believe in the same thing or 2) doesn’t have a belief at all. Do I believe there is a good argument for these regulations, no I don’t think so. I think it’s hard to make an argument for the regulation of religion beyond what was stated. I believe that religious regulation within the media is a different topic.

I do believe there is room for regulation of religion in the media. Regulation of religion in the media is important because the media and journalists should be providing the people with unbiased information and neutral positions. When religion does enter the conversation alongside politics and media, I believe it should be held in a neutral light similar to how political opinions are (sometimes) held. This is not to say that journalists and activists and whoever else can’t have a religious opinion or belief but when it comes to providing the best source of information in a country that’s already heavily regulated, staying neutral will reach a broader audience and spread information faster.

What The Media Says About The COP27

What is COP27?

Cop27 is the over-arching summit for addressing climate change. It happens yearly in a different country each year. This year it was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. This convention brings together nations that have signed the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Kyoto Protocol, or the Paris Agreement. The point of the convention is to jointly address the issue of climate change and promote joint solutions. This past conference focused on three main areas: Reducing emissions, helping countries prepare for and deal with climate change, and securing technical support and funding for developing countries to address the above issues. The overall consensus from the media, reporters, civilian activists, and others is that COP27 did not address (with urgency) the issues of the world. I

What is the media is telling us about COP27 in the U.S.?

If you’re an average, everyday person living in the US, your exposure to COP27 was little at best. However, the coverage of the conference was still thorough and in the general news cycle. Not only was the U. S’s involvement in the conference heavily covered, through releases from the State Department or President Biden and the White House. However, the reports posted from these government offices picture the U. S’s presence in the fight against climate change as an active and forward-moving fight. The news websites such as The Economist and The Guardian depicted the U.S. in another light riddled with criticisms. The US was continuously attacked for its “obstruction and for falling to reckon with its role as history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases…the US was given the unwanted title of ‘colossal fossil’.” The United States isn’t the only country receiving heat from the ineffectiveness of the conference. Calls to slow and eventually stop altogether the usage of fossil fuels were blocked by Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are oil-producing states dependent on the production.

What is the media is telling us about COP27 in the Middle East?

COP27 being held in Egypt holds many purposes ranging from international significance to redefining the importance of smaller countries and specific countries in the Middle East and Africa. Much of the media highlighted examples of tragedies most recently, the flood in Pakistan. The country, “set its sights on COP27 to advocate its case, and sent a solid delegation to Sharm el-Sheikh.”
The coverage of MENA countries was surprisingly very abundant. Countries were covered about concerns with energy and the declining water. With the COP27 in Egypt many MENA countries have stated that because the conference is in the region and will be in the United Arab Emirates next year, this gives Arab and African countries the opportunity to push for more advances in strategy and climate finances. The consensus over both regions is that COP27 needs to set “more ambitious plans to tackle the effect of climate change on displaced people – and to demand stronger action from international donors and decision-makers.”





The COP27: What’s at stake for activists, climate finance, and loss and damage?

Media Uncertainty in A Hypothetical Regime Change in Turkey

The country of Turkey is not new to regime changes after experiencing a multitude of changes over a course of 200 years. Shifting from constitutional monarchies to “Republican experiences”, the election of Tayyip Erdogan’s ushered in a Democratic Parliamentary Republic. However, in 2018, a referendum to the constitution granted Erdogan total control of the executive including, “the power to issue decrees, appoint his own cabinet, form the budge, dissolve parliament early, and fill the courts”. The powers of both the Prime Minister and cabinet soon dissolved. This executive control has led to more strict control over the media and the information it publishes.

The media in Turkey is fairly restricted and suffers from self-censorship and governmental censorship and recently, after the implementation of new amendments further criminalizing free speech, the access to information not crafted by the government is extremely limited. Considering this and following the history, if Turkey were to undergo another regime change, the best option would be to first turn to the international news sources such as CNN Turk, or BBC Turkey because I know the information coming from state run sources can be more censored. However, this may not last long. For example, looking at the failed coup attempt in 2016, the opposition military stormed the CNN building, stormed the Turkish newspaper Kurriyet Gazetesi, and forced a reporter for the state broadcaster TRT to read a written statement at gunpoint while on air. In this situation, I believe the media, though still running, would be severely compromised.

The next best option would be to turn to social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok. These social media platforms have become a “dirty” form of journalism where quick tweets and videos can relay breaking news and headline stories that are able to reach a wider audience. This photo is someone live streaming on Facebook the empty news room being shown on their television. 

With that, I would be able to find quick snip-bits of information about the state of the country and because everyone, in their own way, can become a journalist, it’ll be much harder for the military to shutdown the entire platform. Tiktok, as well, has become an activist/citizen’s platform spreading content through short 30 secs videos or 3-minute videos. I believe a coup today would have to turn towards social media over TV and radio.



Why Did Political System Change in Turkey?

Mid-Semester Recap

I think living in the U.S it can be very easy to ignore the importance of proper representation of international media to the domestic population and what that can do for the people’s perception. This has raised, for me, a question of blindness or ignorance. Can we even answer this question? We’ve seen an example of this ignorance during the first class with how Hollywood depicts the Middle East and North Africa in movies. That, however, was not surprising. What was surprising was this concept of the public sphere.

I know. “Sloane, a public sphere is pretty self-explanatory. How is this surprising?” Hear me out. The concept, yes, is pretty simple. A space, public for most, where ideas and opinions can be expressed, discussed, and argued. The surprising factor however is the extent to which the government will go to manipulate these spaces. Learning about the tools used to do so such as framing, pre and post censorship, agenda-setting, and the biggest being self-censorship was new and watching these efforts play out in actual media. Especially with self-censorship, the ability of the government to implement laws and rules to control the media and those being so severe that the people chose to stay silent (in some cases) rather than posting.

All in all this half of the semester has made me, obviously, look at the media I consume and the realness and genuineness of it. I already began to following the last election but, this class has given me the terms to describe what I’m seeing and experiencing which is interesting. In a sense, it’s my in-class education colliding with my reality.


A Blatant Disregard for the Rights of Women and the Freedom of Expression

“The anger expressed on the street has also shown how Iranians feel about the omnipresent so called ‘morality police’ and compulsory veiling laws. It is high time for these discriminatory laws and the security forces enforcing them to be completely removed from Iranian society, for once and for all.” – Heba Morayef, Amnesty International

This blogpost contains content, both written and visual, that maybe disturbing to the reader.

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Reflection: Saudi Arabia Government Sentences Woman to 45 Years for Her Tweets


At the beginning of September, Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being held for more than a year. She was sentenced for, “‘using the Internet to tear the [country’s] social fabric’ and ‘violating the public order by using social media’”. She was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court under the Counter-Terrorism Law and Anti-Cyber Crime law. Her arrest and sentence came after she tweeted opinions and criticisms of the Saudi government. Abdullah Alaoudh, the Director of Research for the Gulf Region at DAWN (Democracy for the Arab World Now), stated, “‘It is impossible not to connect the dots between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s meeting with President Biden last month in Jeddah and the uptick in the repressive attacks against anyone who dares criticize the Crown Prince or the Saudi government for well-documented abuses.” The article then goes deeper into the laws that were used to sentence Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani. The laws are overly broad and vague in language and allow the government more flexibility when it comes to interpretation.

My area of focus is on expression and the lack thereof. This article is a clear representation of what the lack of expression is within a country. Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was not only sentenced for expressing specifically an opinion on the government, but she was also sentenced an unfair amount of time. This is the government’s opportunity to further their oppression by socially criminalizing the freedom of expression. How is this an issue? First, through the government’s ability to punish opinions and the posting of them in general. Second, the amount of time given for this “crime” is excessive. 45 years in prison for opinions sends a message. 45 years in prison sets an message to the public that simple forms of expression through social media can result in censorship and oppression for the rest of your life. This article taught me how easy it can be for governments to censor a person and potentially a community or movement. All you need is an overly broad law with punishments that are disproportionate to the crime. These harsh punishments tell the public that freedom of expression comes at an extreme cost that most aren’t willing to pay. This fear alone creates a practice of self-censorship. The “management” of expression has become a tool that instills self-censorship and allows the government to pick and choose who’s violated what.

Agenda-Setting and Framing: What Does This Mean for Freedom of Expression

The freedom of expression, the freedom of press, and censorship are controlled by the public and the government. The media outlets themselves such as blogs, news channels, and social media platforms are meant to translate the feelings and positions of those they service. However, in order to properly translate the stances of the government, the public, or both, you have to consider the media effects. Media effects center around the presentation of a story. Concepts such as agenda-setting and framing. These concepts effect how media is consumed and thereby interpreted which can lead to censorship, restriction of expression, or even the expansion of expression.


Agenda-setting is the media’s efforts to guide the viewer to what they believe their focus should be on. It is also the allowance of the same article to be shared “frequently and prominently, which leads people to perceive those issues as more important than others”. The concept of agenda-setting looks at the “trending topics” of the day. For example, a source may post about a recent celebrity scandal over state-level tax reform policies. Here, the media crafts the news coverage it wants the public to see, and, in many cases, it crafts the news the government wants the people to see. In relation to expression, this can deny the public’s ability to stay informed and by doing so, this may deny potential future protests from happening. Here, protests, as a form of expression, are being restricted. Agenda-setting can also create a unified public opinion by intentionally withholding political news or criticisms. The repetitive action of agenda-setting is what can cause this influence on public opinion. Its direct effect on expression is clear. Why would anyone care about state level tax reform issues when the hottest celebrity has been caught in a scandal and that scandal has been on the front page of every major media source for the past week. Agenda-setting can be used as a tactic in order to depoliticize the public sphere.


Framing is one step further compared to agenda-setting. Framing looks at the actual content that is being shared by the media. Framing is about influence. How do journalists write the article in such a way that it persuades or influences a certain group of people or the public as a whole?   It can help to shape how we may think about an issue because of how it’s promoted or presented. Framing offers media outlets the ability to present information that has been carefully selected, vetted, and cleaned rather than post a neutral and “raw” article that presents all the information known. On the opposite end, framing also allows for media to restrict access to certain information leaving the public less informed. How does framing effect expression? It goes back to influence and a unified public opinion. I no longer feel the need to fight against the government when the news has been telling me for weeks that the issues I had, have been resolved and that everything is back to normal. When, in reality there has only been a slight fix to one of the issues and there is still need for necessary concern.

So, What Does This Mean?

These tactics used by the media can be worrying to the public. It begins to form distrust between, specifically, the people and the media. People start to ask questions like, is the information reliable and important even though it is not on the first page? Does framing and agenda-setting really work? How do you know if these newspapers are really giving you all of the puzzle pieces to form your own conclusions? The absence of information can limit a public’s freedom of expression and ability to share with the community. Agenda-setting and framing are powerful tools that can be used by the media to shape public opinion, limit information access, and stunt political critics.

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A Small Reflection on Expression in MENA

The meaning of freedom of the press and freedom of expression are different across countries. In the U.S we understand the freedom of press and expression as our right protected by our Constitution. These freedoms give us the ability to say, write, blog, broadcast, and publish just about anything with protection from the law. This, however, is a luxury. A luxury we take for granted. In the case of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) the “freedom” of press and expression are surveilled by governments, warring parties, or influential political individuals who have connections to large businesses who own the various forms of media. In an effort to provide a general view of expression and the press, I selected two countries to look at specifically. While these two countries are not representative of the entire MENA region, I believe they begin to highlight the issue of the how and what information is spread.



A large portion, about 90%, of the media is closely tied to the state. These broadcasting channels are owned by large corporations who have been connected to President Erdogan. With these close ties, the media sources controlled by these larger corporations generally reflect the thoughts and positions of the government. The population in Turkey is turning away from the larger national stations to more local stations which include, Halk TV, Tele1, and Sözcü. They also turn to international news websites such as BBC Turkish, VOA Turkish, and Deutsche Welle Turkish. Though these local stations are a source of somewhat bias free information, they are under political pressure from the government and in some instances targeted for prosecution. In terms of information spread through social media, a bill, that amended Turkey’s “Internet Law” Law No. 5651, states that “foreign social network service providers whose services are accessed from Turkey more than 1 million times a day appoint a permanent representative in Turkey…” This law targeted social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube to appoint representatives in Turkey in order to comply with Turkish internet restrictions. With various entities within the government who are heavily influenced by the politics of said government, journalists looking to publish factual information often find that they are faced with legal actions such as getting press passes stripped to full on censorship.



I believe a quote from the Reporters Without Borders index best illustrates the relationship between the press, the public, and government. It states, “journalists are commonly forced into the service of one of the parties involved in the conflict, to the detriment of editorial independence.” This properly sums up the ability to spread information throughout the country. While there is plethora of media outlets in Libya, many journalists and reporters fled the country. Those who did remain found protection from the government by publishing highly partisan content that typically favored the politics or the military and thereby favoring the government. Because of such an influential government, the information that spreads is filled with propaganda, hate speech, or disinformation. Disinformation is a big concern for the country because it calls into question what is true and false and also deteriorates the trust that is usually held between the press and the public. A law passed in 2012 called Law 37 made the spreading of “‘false or vicious news or propaganda’ that harms ‘military efforts to defend the country, terrorizes people, or weakens the morale of citizens’” a criminal offense which was punishable by “an unspecified amount of time”. This law also specifically targeted political speech that “glorifies the tyrant (Muammar Gaddafi)” or insult the Libyan institutions. Later the same year, the Libyan Supreme Court decided that Law 37 was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Though fighting the restrictive nature of the government, independent journalists and media outlets still strive to report fact-based information.

Though I’ve only researched 2 countries out of the whole MENA region, I found that Libya and Turkey reflect standings on expression and the press that are similar to those of other countries in MENA.