Arabic media is derived from Arab culture and contains the media content, organizations, and journalists surrounding Arab culture and people, both historically and currently. Media content and organizations can include anything related to print media, broadcasting, news media, advertising, cinema, and more.
The term "Arab" refers to any individual who speaks Arabic as a first language and can be ethnically and religiously heterogeneous in its makeup. The Arab world, according to scholars, consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and Africa which belong to the Arab League, including Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Arabic media sources have contributed to a world-wide Arab culture, and the many global diasporic communities of Arabs, by reproducing culture, media, and Arab interests. As well, social media of Arabic origination has led to the continuation of political uprisings, like the Arab Spring, and it continues to yield influence on politics and culture worldwide.
Arabic media, as an idea, is believed to have begun with the production of poetry in the Arabic language, which was regarded as the main source of communication among people as well as propaganda from states and leaders. As the development of the printing press began, the media landscape changed dramatically with the integration of mass media organizations, newspapers, and the liberalization of local media forms.
The Arab world is one of the slowest to fully embrace the internet as a mass media organization, though its use has grown significantly in the past decade. While initial internet penetration, which is the percentage of a country's population with access to the internet, was significantly slower than Western countries, the Arab League has grown to be an extremely large user of the infrastructure.
Web 2.0 refers to the second stage development of the internet world-wide in which social media and user generated content reigns supreme. Arabic users of Web 2.0 sites, like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube are cited to be in the hundreds of millions, with the most politically active clusters of these sites being located in Syria, Kuwait and the Levant. The most used sites globally among Arabs are YouTube and Wikipedia, though Facebook and Twitter are not far behind.
Al Jazeera, which was created in 1996, is an Arab state-funded broadcasting agency that continues to be the most-watched organization in the Arab world. As of 2017, it has 80 international bureaus, and is regarded as the Arab-created organization with the largest global reach, even reaching large viewer ships in North America, Europe, and Asia. Though it has received criticisms, Al Jazeera has been given international recognition, and was even cited by then-American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 as "real news", and winning the "information war" against the United States' broadcast media.
The majority of modern Arabic media organizations have reflected Western journalistic principles, like objectivity, transparency, and fairness. These journalistic standards, outlined in the Code of Ethics of Journalists
However, some Arabic organizations and journalists have rejected these ideals in order to reflect the political sphere of the Arab world. Because of large scale government regulations on media, and a lack of the protection of the free press, some journalists and co-operations have disregarded balanced reporting to place themselves politically either against or with the current state government. In fact, the organization Al Jazeera, as introduced above, is critiqued by many, especially Western media organizations, to be a thinly veiled source of state-sponsored propaganda.
Similarly, online, social media bloggers and users often align themselves politically with a cause or value and disregard the idea of journalistic principles. Such influences have contributed to political uprisings like the Arab Spring, as well as worldwide communities of political discussion.
According to the non-profit organization Committee to Protect Journalists, a number of countries from the Arab League are represented in their Most Censored Countries List, including Libya and Syria. In response, many Arabic media organizations have been created in response to this government and state regulation and lack of free press protection.
In particular, according to Abdulla, the internet and Web 2.0 have been cited as interesting mediums for expression of for "nongovernmental and nonofficial civic groups, [which can] turn the Arab community into a more liberal and development-oriented community". Similarly, the online sphere allows for a space for both organized and citizen journalists to produce their knowledge without censorship more easily.
The Arab Spring was a revolution of both peaceful and violent protests in 2011, with most of the action confined to Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain. The protests were in response to mass citizen dissatisfaction of authoritative governments, as well as the lack of freedom of the press, information, and democratic values.
Social media played a crucial role in connecting activists, spreading information, and creating social commentary, and many protestors took to the streets with smartphones, video cameras, and tablets in hand to capture to revolution. While there is evidence that social media was not a causal mechanism of the uprising, it served a purpose in communicating what was happening to the rest of the world.
The expression of Arabic culture, particularly in Western media systems, can be considered a contradictory counter-narrative. Emphasis is often placed on terrorist connections, women's rights, violence, and lack of alcohol use. While Arabic culture in these media systems is signified by its influence by the religion of Islam, there is often miscommunication about what the religion entails and what Arabic culture means on a global scale.
In response, diasporic communities of Arabs globally often use Arabic mass media organizations, like Al Jazeera, as well as the contribution of local Arabic alternative media sources, to retain their cultural news.