Fatima el-Issawi

Policy and Research Papers

Shifting journalistic roles in democratic transitions: lessons from Egypt

While in the case of the Arab Spring the focus of research and debate was very much on the role of social media in enabling political change both during the uprisings and in their immediate aftermath, the impact of traditional national mass media and journalism on framing this political change has been less addressed. In this article, we investigate the role of Egyptian journalists in shaping Egypt’s complex and fast-moving political transition. Based on a thematic analysis of in-depth interviews and a conceptual framework building on Christians et al.’s normative roles of the media, it can be concluded that the monitorial and facilitative roles, which were prevalent in the early stages of the post-Mubarak era, were quickly overturned in favor of a radical and collaborative role. Egyptian journalists working in private media thus demonized their political adversaries, mainly the Islamists, transforming this political ‘other’ into the ultimate enemy. At the same time, the new military regime was being revered and celebrated. This arguably contributed to further destabilize the fragile transition to democracy. It is furthermore concluded that for democracy to succeed in an Egyptian context, antagonistic political conflicts need to be transformed into agonistic ones both at the level of political culture and media culture.

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