Media and Democracy in the Arab World: The Future of Freedoms and Rights in the Digital Era
Date(s) - 10/31/2019
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Arab Center Washington DC
In the 21st century, media and digital tools are increasingly becoming a central component of the public sphere and the political process, where the limitations of—as well as the prospects for—democratic reform are evolving with advances in technology. In the Arab world in particular, digital activism and cyber politics have manifested themselves at least since the mass protests of 2011.
While social media tools and communication technologies have played a central role in uprisings and democracy, they have also become tools of the repressive policies of authoritarian regimes. With resurgent and entrenched authoritarianism in the last year, the Arab world has witnessed increased targeting of journalists and activists and further restrictions on freedoms of expression. The emergence of a renewed wave of protest and democratizing potential in the region is juxtaposed with a robust form of totalitarian rule, one that further threatens the state of freedoms and rights. From hacking and espionage campaigns to the targeting and killing of journalists, cyber geopolitics—including mass disinformation operations, troll factories, smear campaigns, silencing dissent, targeted cyberattacks, and espionage techniques—present a rapidly growing trend in Middle East politics.
With high disruptive potential that has low economic and political costs, cyber weapons introduce new threats not only to freedoms of expression and rights, but also to the progress toward democracy in the region. The future of democracy and human rights in the Arab world will be significantly impacted by the uses of new media tools and technologies in the political and geopolitical spheres. Indeed, implementing measures to ensure accountability and ethical policies in cyber space has become a profoundly paramount objective.
At this critical intersection of freedoms of expression and cyber geopolitics, Arab Center Washington DC is dedicating its fourth annual conference to exploring the role of media and new technologies in human rights and democracy in the Arab world.