The Power of People plus Media
Ali Asghar Kazemi
February 13, 2011
In the age of mass media people alone cannot do much to change the course of history, as they did in Egypt and Tunisia. In fact, these two phenomena have synergetic effect upon each other. This means that they have become in a sense corollary and complementary. In other words, one without the other is unable to influence public opinion in domestic and international arena.
We had witnessed this power before, during many undesired natural or man-made conflicts and disasters throughout the world. Social and political crises are especially very susceptible to this impact in particular when there are some strategic interests involved in the affected region. Indeed, Egypt was a case of this sort par excellence.
We have seen that during the two or three weeks that ended with the downfall of Mubarak regime, almost all important world television networks had a permanent 24 hours direct coverage from the center of this crisis (Al Tahrir Square). Without this, perhaps the Egyptians would not have continued their protests for that long and Mubarak, who resisted to the last minutes, would have come safe out of the turmoil.
Many affected governments, including Egyptian authorities, have accused international media (Al Jazeera in particular) as irresponsible instigators and agitators of the crisis. But, they fail to understand one important characteristic of today’s media, including satellite TV, internet, Facebook and Twitter. The very nature of these sophisticated tools is to prepare ground for quick and easy communication between people disregard of their substance and final impacts. We remember the role BBC played during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The same network was later accused of playing villain in the Iran’s post-election uproar in 2009 that was short of bringing down the Islamic regime.
The reason media has gained that huge importance in internal crises situations is very simple. When unarmed, defenseless and unprotected people want to express their wishes and demands to an authoritarian regime, which has all the naked power to deter them, only the power of world public opinion can come to their help. This is possible only through media that can transfer instantly an event to the world. No matter how much a closed political system tries to stay aloof of the impact of the pressure exerted by the international environment, in the final account it will surrender to the consequences. /
* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran. Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.