Freedom of expression, extremism and the role of the media

Transnational Othering – Global Diversities Media, Extremism and Free Expression
DIFFERENCE / An anthology that addresses important topics such as freedom of speech, globalization, extremism, minorities and inequality in the world, but many of the authors want too much.


21 journalists and academics from 9 different countries have contributed to an anthology about freedom of speech, globalization, extremism, minorities and difference in the world today, edited by Elisabeth Eide, Kristin Skare Orgeret og Nil Mutluer.

Initially, the editors point out that many common beliefs about these themes do not match today's reality. For example, they say that, according to Reporters Without Borders, Ghana has a greater degree of freedom of expression than France and Burkina Faso greater than the United States. Correcting myths is good.

The book is a result of posts held at three conferences on everything from freedom of expression, working conditions for journalists in countries characterized by terror and / or strong political control of the media, the recruitment of IS sympathizers to the rapid increase in internet use in countries with a lot of propaganda and little source criticism. In other words, the themes are quite varied, and so is the book.

Screenshot from rts channel on youtube
Screenshot from rts channel on youtube

It may not have been easy to select and collect the contributions that would fit into the anthology. I miss a clearer red thread between the different chapters. But I also miss a clearer red thread, a clearer issue, in most chapters. It may seem that many of the authors have wanted to say "everything" about the Internet and other media, (lack of) freedom of expression, politics, resistance ... and much else about their country and work when they first got the opportunity.

Some of the chapters were probably also more interesting as conference contributions than they are as book chapters; For example, it is difficult to write a discourse analysis of how IS actively uses YouTube in connection with kidnappings when you cannot see the clips. I imagine the breaks during the conferences were both interesting and rewarding when so many journalists and academics concerned with freedom of expression, social media and propaganda were gathered over several days, and the topics discussed were high on the international agenda.

Freedom of speech

Now we have already read a lot about both the Mohammed caricature drawings in Jutlandsposten and the attack on the French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo, so some chapters bring little new. It was probably also much more interesting to hear about the Muslim mob who set fire to twelve Buddhist temples in Bangladesh in 2012, right after it happened, than to read about it again in the book without any new angles or new information .

However, many of the chapters seem very interesting at first: How does the proliferation of smartphones and access to less expensive internet affect freedom of speech in Bangladesh? How is the Web used to recruit participants to extremist communities?

How is the Web used to recruit participants to extremist communities?

For example, the start of Ade Armando's chapter promises very well: Fourteen internet activists organized in the Indonesian Muslim Cyber ​​Army (MCA) whose goal is to defend and strengthen Islam were arrested for violating the Electronic Information Act in the country. The law prohibits the spread of hatred, blasphemy and false information. Exciting, I think and look forward to reading about this while sitting in Chad's capital Ndjamena and hearing the news that a radio station has been closed for three months for spreading falsehoods and that a newspaper journalist was sought by the military's intelligence and threatened to quit as a reporter. But unfortunately, after the initial appetizer, the cyber army disappears completely, and the rest of the twenty-page chapter is a representation of the political developments in Indonesia written in moderate English.

News of terror

Mohamed Balti's contribution also starts promising; Based on his own experience as a journalist in Tunis, he is questioning how to convey news about terror without indirectly supporting the terrorists' agenda. He discusses how difficult it is to distinguish rumors from the facts, how dependent the journalist is on those who can guarantee one's safety, and the problem with the time required for delivery of drugs that should often be double-checked. There are exciting issues that unfortunately are not followed up by particularly good analyzes or answers.

It is possibly my lack of knowledge of Bangladesh and Indonesia, which several chapters are about, that makes me think some chapters are either too detailed or too standardized. But it is also possible that this is because the texts do not relate to one issue being pursued.

The editor Orgeret is thus one exception. She has limited herself to interviewing five journalists who have had to flee from their home countries to Scandinavia and who have read what they have written themselves. She uses this material to discuss journalists' status change to refugee – "as an asylum seeker, I did not feel like a journalist, but as a criminal" – and the challenges of establishing herself as a journalist in a country you do not know.

At the same time, she points out the importance of getting an outside look at ourselves based on the Danish newspaper Information's special edition of 9. October 2015. This edition was written exclusively by journalists with a refugee background. Had everyone managed to have such a clear and uniform field of impact in their chapters as Orgeret, the book would have been much better.

In keeping with the intentions of global knowledge sharing and more equitable distribution of goods, the book is made available to everyone free of charge and can be downloaded in chapters in PDF format. And although the paper edition has already been launched at seminars in Indonesia, Oslo and Afghanistan a few weeks after it was released, it is sympathetic.

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