29 Aug 2013
For anyone looking for a primer on the current landscape of digital media in Egypt, OSF's latest report "Mapping Digital Media: Egypt" is the obvious place to start. Written by AUC media scholar Dr Rasha Abdulla, the paper gives a detailed overview of all aspects of digital media in Egypt, from consumer habits to business, law and journalism.
Here at Meedan we were particularly interested in Chapter 4 of the report, which navigates the swirling waters of digital media and journalism, highlighting both opportunities and challenges for Egyptian journalists.
Particularly relevant to our work on Checkdesk was the cautionary tone struck by former Daily News Egypt editor-in-chief (and current The Egyptian Monocle EiC) Rania el-Malky:
... Ms Al Malky noted that “digitization of media has made it much easier to spread false news.” While journalists may use social networks to give them leads, they need to verify the information. Many journalists believe that social networks have become a hub for cultivating rumors, especially after the 25 January revolution. Journalists need also to verify information circulated by activists on social networks: “Activists have a different agenda and have a different way of seeing things from journalists,” who should never take information online for granted, Ms Al Malky said. Otherwise, journalists can be used or abused by people commenting online or sending unverified information via email. Ms Al Malky said that if she cannot confirm it, she cannot use it. “We cannot be part of a rumor mill.”
This emphasis truth over scoops is timely and important, particularly given recent criticism of some Egyptian media's scant regard for fact. Earlier in the report, Ms Al Malky - albeit indirectly - pointed to a possible solution to the problem of verifying online media for newsrooms:
Ms Al Malky asserted that digitization made it easier to verify information. With readers becoming more interactive and watchful, mistakes and flaws are easier to uncover. The resulting increased public scrutiny has pushed media outlets to perform better. “Anything you write and say can be challenged by the whole of society online and offline,” Ms Al Malky said.
With Checkdesk we are trying to help newsrooms channel that very "increased public scrutiny" for the verification of online media in a structured and open way. If successful, we hope to be part of a driving force behind an increased and healthy skepticism of media shared online, and create the spaces for journalists and citizens to work together to analyze media at a URL level.
We encourage everyone to check out Dr Abdulla's report and look forward to seeing more of the Mapping Digital Media series in future months.