Research Article
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The Syrian Uprising: The Battle between the Regime and Activists over Making Online Narratives

Year 2021, Volume: 7 Issue: 2, 99 - 117, 01.12.2021

Abstract

Syria has long been a land where censorship dominates the press, media and the Internet. Many books, TV shows, and websites are not allowed, especially those of opposing political groups such the Muslim Brotherhood (York, 2011; Middle East Watch, 1991). During the Syrian uprising in 2011, the regime as well as activists relied on the Internet to spread their narratives of what Syria was going through, which transformed the Internet into a contested political arena. The regime’s old censorship tactics proved unsuccessful in curbing the dominance of national and international media via TV and the Internet. While activists used the Internet to inform, the regime used it to control. Both parties targeted different audiences for completely different purposes. This paper will address how cyber censorship in Syria promoted the regime’s narrative about the uprising. It will identify the target of both narratives and situate online discourse within the larger historical and political contexts. I will address how regime exploits the internet as an authoritative, punitive tool not only to control the news about the atrocities it committed but also to maintain and mainstream consistent propaganda that primarily targeted its supporters. While the regime used the Internet and media to target primarily its loyalists, activists posted videos of attacks on protestors hoping that the world would hear their voices. It is as if the two parties spoke different languages in the same society and country.

References

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  • ICT Cyber Desk, (2014). “ International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)”, Retrieved January 24, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep09461
  • Kela, Salama. )2015(. Time of the Revolution: Primary Crises and Theories. Cairo: Dār al-Hilāl, 2015.
  • Kenner, David, (2011). “Massacre City. Foreign Policy”, Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/05/massacre-city-2/
  • Munīf, A.-R. (1994). al- Kātib wa-'l-manfā: Humūm wa-āfāq ar-riwāya al-ʻarabīya. Bairūt: al-Mu'assasa al-ʻArabīya lid-Dirāsāt wa-'n-Našr. Muṣṭafá, H. M. (2012). al-Majāl al-ʻāmm al-iftirāḍī fī al-thawrah al-Sūrīyah: Al-khaṣāʼiṣ, al-ittijāhāt, ālīyāt ṣunʻ al-raʼy al-ʻāmm. al-Dawḥah: al-Markaz al-ʻArabī lil-Abḥāth wa-Dirāsat al-Siyāsāt.
  • Open Net Initiative, (2009). “Internet filtering in Syria”, Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://opennet.net/sites/opennet.net/files/ONI_Syria_2009.pdf.
  • Reuters, (2011). “Social Media: a double-edged sword in Syria”, Retrieved July 20, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-social-media-idUSTRE76C3DB20110713
  • Salti, R. (2012). Shall We Dance? Cinema Journal, 52(1), 166-171. Retrieved August 23, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23360291
  • Syrian Human Rights Committee, (2019). “Seven years on the massacre of al-Houla”, Retrieved July 20, 2020 from https://www.shrc.org/en/?p=32456
  • Tkacheva, O., Schwartz, L., Libicki, M., Taylor, J., Martini, J., & Baxter, C. (2013). Internet Freedom and Political Space. Santa Monica, Ca; Washington, Dc; Pittsburgh, Pa; New Orleans, La; Jackson, Ms; Boston, Ma; Doha, Qa; Cambridge, Uk; Brussels, Be: RAND Corporation. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt4cgd90
  • Warf, B. and Vincent, P. (2007), Multiple Geographies of the Arab Internet. Area, 39: 83-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2007.00717.x
  • Warren, M., & Leitch, S. (2016). The Syrian electronic army – a hacktivist group. Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 14(2), 200-212. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.uconn.edu/10.1108/JICES-12-2015-0042
  • York, Jillian, (2011). “Unblocking Syria’s social media”, Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2011/2/12/unblocking-syrias-social-media.
Year 2021, Volume: 7 Issue: 2, 99 - 117, 01.12.2021

Abstract

References

  • Al-Arabiya. (2019). Assad pardons one of his most famous supporters and orders his release. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://bit.ly/3ihf7SG
  • Al-Jazeera English. (2011). Protests prompt Syria to pledge reforms. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/03/2011324164740741279.html
  • Saleh, Asaad. Voices of the Arab Spring : Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. Al-Shwaiki, Rama, (2018). “Wissam al-Tayr: his Media Responsibility and Passion for Success”. ESyria, Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://bit.ly/2FdZTzq
  • Amnesty. (2012). Syria: 30 years on, Hama survivors recount the horror. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2012/02/syria-years-hama-survivors-recount-horror/
  • Amos, Deborah, (2011). “Pro-Assad 'Army' Wages Cyberwar In Syria”, National Public Radio. Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2011/09/25/140746510/pro-assad-army-wages-cyberwar-in-syria
  • Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 2d Enl. Ed.].. ed. Meridian Books ; MG15. New York: Meridian Books, 1958.
  • BBC. (2012). Houla: How a Massacre Unfolded. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18233934
  • Clark, Justin, (2018). “Cyber-attacks and surveillance in Assad’s Syria: ‘They can do whatever they want, they own the infrastructure’”, Syria Direct. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from https://syriadirect.org/news/cyber-attacks-and-surveillance-in-assad%E2%80%99s-syria-%E2%80%98they-can-do-whatever-they-want-they-own-the-infrastructure%E2%80%99/
  • Chaabane, A., Chen, T., Cunche, M., De Cristofaro, E., Friedman, A., & Kaafar, M. A. (2014). Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Internet Filtering in Syria.
  • Conduit, Dara. The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
  • Devereaux, Ryan, (2012). “Syrian Government Blocks Live Video Streaming Site Bambuser”, Guardian. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/syrian-government-blocks-bambuser
  • Druzin, Bryan, and Gordon, Gregory S. "Authoritarianism and the Internet." Law & Social Inquiry 43, no. 4 (2018): 1427-457.
  • Fārūq, Ali, (2014). “From Memory: Insulting the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’”, Alaraby. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://tinyurl.com/sxtbr5z
  • Fisher, M., & Keller, J., (2011). “Syria's Digital Counter-Revolutionaries”, The Atlantic. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/08/syrias-digital-counter-revolutionaries/244382/
  • Flamand, A., & Macleod, H., (2011). “Tortured and killed: Hamza al-Khateeb, age 13”, Al-Jazeera English. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2011/5/31/tortured-and-killed-hamza-al-khateeb-age-13
  • Ghadbian, Najib, (2011). “The Uprising of the ‘Infiltrators’ in Syria”, Middle East Online (MEO), Retrieved September 4, 2020, from https://meo.news/en/node/439436
  • Galperin, E., & Marquis-Boire, M., (2012). “The Internet is Back in Syria and So is Malware Targeting Syrian Activists”, Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved September 4, 2020, from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/12/iinternet-back-in-syria-so-is-malware
  • Gohdes, A. (2015). Pulling the plug: Network disruptions and violence in civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research, 52(3), 352-367. Retrieved January 23, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24557405
  • Human Rights Watch, (2011). “Syria: Defectors Describe Orders to Shoot Unarmed Protesters”. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/07/09/syria-defectors-describe-orders-shoot-unarmed-protesters#:~:text=(New%20York)%20%2D%20Defectors%20from,Human%20Rights%20Watch%20said%20today.&text=The%20defectors%20said%20they%20were,in%20a%20number%20of%20instances.
  • ICT Cyber Desk, (2014). “ International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)”, Retrieved January 24, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep09461
  • Kela, Salama. )2015(. Time of the Revolution: Primary Crises and Theories. Cairo: Dār al-Hilāl, 2015.
  • Kenner, David, (2011). “Massacre City. Foreign Policy”, Retrieved August 22, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/05/massacre-city-2/
  • Munīf, A.-R. (1994). al- Kātib wa-'l-manfā: Humūm wa-āfāq ar-riwāya al-ʻarabīya. Bairūt: al-Mu'assasa al-ʻArabīya lid-Dirāsāt wa-'n-Našr. Muṣṭafá, H. M. (2012). al-Majāl al-ʻāmm al-iftirāḍī fī al-thawrah al-Sūrīyah: Al-khaṣāʼiṣ, al-ittijāhāt, ālīyāt ṣunʻ al-raʼy al-ʻāmm. al-Dawḥah: al-Markaz al-ʻArabī lil-Abḥāth wa-Dirāsat al-Siyāsāt.
  • Open Net Initiative, (2009). “Internet filtering in Syria”, Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://opennet.net/sites/opennet.net/files/ONI_Syria_2009.pdf.
  • Reuters, (2011). “Social Media: a double-edged sword in Syria”, Retrieved July 20, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-social-media-idUSTRE76C3DB20110713
  • Salti, R. (2012). Shall We Dance? Cinema Journal, 52(1), 166-171. Retrieved August 23, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23360291
  • Syrian Human Rights Committee, (2019). “Seven years on the massacre of al-Houla”, Retrieved July 20, 2020 from https://www.shrc.org/en/?p=32456
  • Tkacheva, O., Schwartz, L., Libicki, M., Taylor, J., Martini, J., & Baxter, C. (2013). Internet Freedom and Political Space. Santa Monica, Ca; Washington, Dc; Pittsburgh, Pa; New Orleans, La; Jackson, Ms; Boston, Ma; Doha, Qa; Cambridge, Uk; Brussels, Be: RAND Corporation. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt4cgd90
  • Warf, B. and Vincent, P. (2007), Multiple Geographies of the Arab Internet. Area, 39: 83-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2007.00717.x
  • Warren, M., & Leitch, S. (2016). The Syrian electronic army – a hacktivist group. Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 14(2), 200-212. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.uconn.edu/10.1108/JICES-12-2015-0042
  • York, Jillian, (2011). “Unblocking Syria’s social media”, Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2011/2/12/unblocking-syrias-social-media.

Details

Primary Language English
Subjects Communication and Media Studies
Journal Section Research Article
Authors

Mohammed KADALAH 0000-0003-1401-9274

Publication Date December 1, 2021
Acceptance Date June 18, 2021
Published in Issue Year 2021 Volume: 7 Issue: 2

Cite

APA KADALAH, M. (2021). The Syrian Uprising: The Battle between the Regime and Activists over Making Online Narratives. International Journal of Media Culture and Literature, 7(2), 99-117.


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