Recently 2017, a Gulf Crisis emerged between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,
In the 21st century, visual communication is becoming increasingly essential and relevant in the social media age, as individuals fancy visual content that is straightforward, easy to understand, and ability to elicit emotions (Brantner, Lobinger, & Wetzstein, 2011). For instance, existing studies on Facebook reveals that pictures, photos, and video content evoke increased reactions or engagements with fans compared to content lacking images (Belicove, 2011; HubSpot, 2011). Moreover, the attractiveness of infographics or the visual breakdown of information and data is also soaring, as people continue to consume fast-paced information fast, which is increasing the possibility of social media sites to influence public perception about a messenger and as the shared content by the messenger (Seo, 2014).
The importance of visual communication is obvious when the intended content broadcast across diverse countries and cultures (Brantner et al., 2011; Cloud, 2008), which explains why Qatar and Saudi Arabia are heavily investing funds on visual-oriented social media drives through Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya in engaging the global public and spread messages about the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian conflict is appropriate for this study because it will allow an examination of the evolving relationship between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Both countries have been involved in the battle since start, and how these differences are played out in media, and particularly social media networks with a particular focus on English Facebook pages of news outlets Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Saudi Arabia and Qatar were allies in the Syrian war, both providing assistance to rebel forces. Since both are Gulf countries, they are approaching the Syrian conflict as part of a larger regional ambition, a situation that has led to risk-taking, friction, and rhetorical escalation of the crisis since 2011 (Hokayem, 2014).
In the beginning of Syrian crises, Saudi Arabia sees Qatar as an ally to its mortal enemy, Iran that is also offering military assistance to the Assad Administration, and the war in Syrian is central in shaping the outcomes of a fast-changing order in the Middle East (Hokayem, 2014). Since the conflict in Syria remains a significant determinant of the outcomes of a changing Middle East order, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are heavily investing in emerging victorious, with media playing a central in advancing each other’s interests in the region (Al-Rawi, 2017).
As a result, both nations have created allies with regional media network, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia settling on Al- Jazeera and Al-Arabiya satellite TV channels respectively. According to Fahmy, Wanta, & Nisbet, 2012, Al-Arabiya positions itself as a moderate alternative to Al-Jazeera’s extreme position on domestic and international issues. Both news outlets are designed as independent voices modeled on similar broadcasting styles. In their attempts to provide varied perspectives on news events that interest Arab viewers, both do not shy away from covering controversial news topics, and the Syrian conflict is no exception, as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have taken opposing stances to Saudi Arabia and Qatar respectively (Fahmy, Wanta, & Nisbet, 2012).
Consequently, the increase of information communication technologies, especially the emergence and prevalence of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide avenues for political forces to spread propagandainformation that strives to support and uphold a specific political agenda and influences public opinion towards the plan (Cull et al., 2003; Jowett and O’Donnell, 2015). Social media is allowing parties engaged in conflicts to communicate and interact directly with target audiences without employing traditional channels such as mass media (Khondker, 2011). For instance, an examination of Twitter visual images posted by Al Qassam Brigades from Hamas and Israeli Defense Forces during the Gaza Conflict in 2012 demonstrated that each side employed various frames and themes to portray its rival as aggressive by stressing the fatalities on their side (Seo, 2014).
Moreover, the employment of multiple frames and themes in social network platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube was also evident in 2013 when opposing sides circulate explicit descriptions of Syrians injured and killed following chemical assaults by Assad forces (Curry, 2013; Sadiki, 2012; Shehabat, 2012).
Therefore, the English Facebook pages of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya are appropriate for two main reasons. First, the English language is global thus both news agencies have an opportunity to convey news events and perspectives at both the domestic level and international levels. Moreover, Facebook is the largest social media site in the world thus the news information reaches broader audiences across the globe.
When examining the role of graphic propaganda, it is vital to consider the framing techniques employed to improve the persuasiveness of a particular message. Framing is the ability of a communicator to shape and influence public opinion regarding an issue based on the manner the communicator presents the problem (Entman, 1993). A frame refers to a fundamental organizing concept that attaches importance to an emerging series of events by weaving a link between the events. According to Reese, 2007, it is also an organizing principle that is commonly shared and steady over time, and which works representatively to shape the social world meaningfully. Through framing, it is possible to select specific facets of an event and make them outstanding in communications, which explains why a frame plays an essential role in stimulating support of opposition to an issue or event by underscoring a specific ideology (Seo & Ebrahim, 2016).
The recent developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs) particularly social media continue to influence propaganda techniques (Sadiki, 2012; Shehabat, 2012). Social media is a collection of applications that are allowing individuals to communicate and cooperate by creating, sharing, and engaging with user-generated content through digital network tools (Seo & Ebrahim, 2016). As a result, social media is allowing current organizations to communicate and interact directly with target audiences without employing traditional channels of communication such as mass media. Various categories of social media are serving different purposes. For instance, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are leaning towards building and maintaining social relations while other sites such as Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest focus on photo sharing and video sharing aspects (Arafa & Armstrong, 2016). Today, social media networks pose challenges to political players, as individuals have access to a range of channels for receiving and sharing information, which increases the possibility to influence domestic, regional, and international political activities.
Historically, the region remains an arena of power politics, and as recently as 2017 power politics between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are taking to the media, with Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera news outlets playing critical roles in shaping public opinion about the Gulf Crisis, and particularly the ongoing Syrian conflict. Both news outlets are employing visual propaganda in their coverage of the Syrian conflict to influence public opinion, and it is through their actions that the study will fill the existing gap in the literature concerning the relationship between the Arabian Gulf Crisis and the Visual Propaganda Coverage of Syrian Conflict.
Q1- Concerning propaganda frames, how do visual contents posted to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya -Facebook English pages differ in the coverage of Syrian conflict before and after the Arabian Gulf crisis?
Q2-How can social media be used to solve the Arabian Gulf Crisis?
“H1- visual contents posted to Al Jazeera Facebook English pages are more emotional than analytical in their coverage of the Syrian conflict before the Arabian Gulf crisis
The aim of the research is to assess the impact that the Arabian Gulf Crisis has on Aljazeera. Dada will be collected from the social media by assessing how the people use Facebook.
The sample data for the study includes all visual contents posted on the English Facebook pages of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya news outlets regarding the Syrian conflict between May 2016 and May 2018. During the two-year timeframe, the researcher will collect 200 the visual posted on these channels’ Facebook pages, with the two-year period being appropriate because it covers events before and after the Arabian Gulf Crisis. Before the Arabian Gulf Crisis, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were allies, but after the Crisis, they have disagreement about some ongoing issues in the region. As a result, the data obtained from the study focuses on demonstrating how visual propaganda was employed by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya to force to the interests of the opposing sides before and after the Arabian Gulf Crisis, with a focus on the conflict in Syria.
Coding Scheme and Theme
The research will employ three common coding categories in analyzing the types of propaganda frames present in English Facebook pages of Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya namely human-interest vs nonhuman interest, overt vs covert, and analytical vs emotional categories. The overt frame covers visual contents that openly promote a political agenda or blame Assad regime or his rivals for the continuing crisis by labeling them as aggressors. For instance, Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya Facebook pages posting visual contents that links the Assad or his rival’s with ISIS would fit within this frame. However, the covert frame covers visual contents to promote a political agenda in a hidden manner, and a visual representation of Bashar Assad or his rivals receiving praise from Syrians fits this frame.
The logical frame covers visual descriptions that focus on analytical interpretations, facts, and data of how Bashar al Assad or his rivals are protecting or harming Syrians, and their respective strategies to defeat each other. Nonetheless, the emotional frame covers the visual contents focused on evoking emotions such as compassion and hostility towards opposing sides. Finally, the nonhuman-interest frame covers visual contents that focus on buildings or machines. On the other hand, the human-interest frame covers visual contents that focus on a specific people or groups that suffer from the Syrian conflict and which side from the opposing sides caused this tragedy.
For an inter-coder reliability test, two individuals trained coded the same 10 percent of the sample visual content from AL Jazeera and Al-Arabiya- Facebook English Pages. Inter-coder reliability was determined using Krippendorff’s Alpha. The inter-coder reliability score for the theme was 0.75.
All analysis was performed with the aid of SPSS. In order to provide concise and exhaustive answer to the research questions, two statistical tools was used, namely; descriptive statistics (used to describe the measures of central tendency of the data), chi square test (employed to test if there is a significant difference in the visual contents posted to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya -Facebook English pages on their coverage of the Syrian conflict before and after the Arabian Gulf crisis).
The analysis will be in two folds, the first will test the for existing significant difference between the contents posted on the Facebook English platform of Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya before the Arabian gulf crisis while the second will test for existing significant difference between the two media powerhouse after the Arabian gulf crisis.
To conduct a chi square test, the researcher ensured that the following conditions were met;
As earlier stated, the analysis is in two folds, the Facebook post of Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya on the gulf crisis dated from June 2016 to April 2017 represents the first fold (before) and post from June 2017 to present day 2018 represent the second fold. 200 posts were randomly selected for this study, with each media powerhouse having an equal share of 100 each, further details on the sampling breakdown are as shown in the table below;
All analysis was done at 95% confidence level, which leaves the significant level at 0.05.
|Sample size||Before Crisis||After Crisis||Total|
Table 1 showing the sampling distribution
The research question which is focused on giving answers to the same questions based on two-time frames, before the gulf crisis and after the gulf crisis.
The result of Analysis Before
Three propaganda categories were used in the analysis of the posts in this study; overt vs covert, analytical vs emotional, and human-interest vs non-human interest. As shown in table 2; Al-Arabiya has a significantly higher proportion of post that displays the overt form of propaganda when compared in relative to Al-Jazeera and a slightly higher proportion in the covert frame also. This difference was not statistically significant according to chi-square test with a p value of 0.112, we, therefore, conclude that there was no difference in the overt vs covert frame between the two media giants before.
On Analytical vs Emotional frame, Al-Jazeera post was more emotional (56%) than analytical (28%), while the posts of Al Arabiya were more analytical (56%) than emotional (38%), furthermore, chi square test revealed that there is a significant difference between the contents of these two powerful media channels on this frame with a p value of 0.013. Al Arabiya post contains data of how Bashar al Assad or his rivals are protecting or harming Syrians, and their
respective strategies to defeat each other while Al Jazeera post contains visual
contents focused on evoking emotions such as compassion and hostility towards opposing sides.
Table 2, Propaganda Frames (Before the crisis)
|Frame||Al-Jazeera Facebook page||Al-Arabiya Facebook page|
|Overt vs Covert|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 4.375, p = 0.112|
|Analytical vs Emotional|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 8.663, p = 0.013|
|Human Interest vs Non-Human Interest|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 18.055, p = 0.000|
On the last frame of propaganda, the analysis revealed there is a significant existing difference between the post of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya on the Human-interest vs Non-human-interest frame with a p value of 0.05. This is true despite the fact that the majority of the Facebook post coming from the two media channels are focused on appealing to human interest.
The result of Analysis After the Crisis
The outcome of the analysis as seen in table 3 revealed that none of the chi square tests is significant, which means, the p-values are greater than 0.05 on all three frames used in this study; overt vs covert (p value = 0.831), analytical vs emotional (p value = 0.178) and human-interest vs non-human interest (p value = 0.512), there was no significant difference between the Facebook posts of the two media channels after the gulf crises.
On overt vs Covert, a significant proportion of Al Jazeera post is neither covert nor overt (30%) while the larger proportion is overt (46%), the trend is also the same with post from Al Arabiya having a significant proportion of post that are neither overt or covert (26%) and overt having the largest proportion of 52%.
For both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, a larger proportion of their post falls under the emotional category with both media outlet having 56% and 40% respectively, 32% and 36% are analytical while rest are neither analytical nor emotional.
Lastly, in the human-interest vs non-human-interest frame, for both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, larger proportion of their post falls under the human-interest category with both media outlet having 58% and 52% respectively, 32% and 42% are geared towards non-human-interest while rest does not fall in either of the above categories.
Table 3 Propaganda Frames (After Crisis)
|Frame||Al-Jazeera Facebook page||Al-Arabiya Facebook page|
|Overt vs Covert|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 0.370, p = 0.831|
|Analytical vs Emotional|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 3.451, p = 0.178|
|Human Interest vs Non-Human Interest|
|Chi square result||(χ2(2, df = 2) = 1.339, p = 0.512|
There are three places in which war can be fought; land, air, and water. However, the 21st century has witnessed a massive boom on the use of the internet, and its influence in passing information through subtle and unsubtle means (some people call it cyberwar, the fourth form of warfare. The birth of the internet gave rise to the spread of powerful social networks, this network provides easy and efficient ways of spreading information in the form of videos, audios, pictures, and text. Amongst these powerful social media sites is Facebook, in fact, a report from (Stats, Internet World, 2015) indicated that conflicting countries or parties make use of the social media to promote their propaganda by posting attention catching images. Most of the people are on Facebook compared to the other social media sites hence the other propagandists like to use the platform in spreading their hate messages among the people in the society. Facebook has approximately 2.2 billion Users worldwide and the number is continuously increasing meaning that it is one of the potential meeting and communication point for people in the world. The thoughts of the people towards Aljazeera and Al Arabiya were similar which shows the attitude that the people have on the media.
The study analyzed the Facebook posts made by both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya on the gulf crisis before and after the gulf crisis using three frames; Overt vs Covert, Analytical vs Emotional and Human-interest vs Non-human-interest. The analysis revealed that the post from Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera differs on the frames of Analytical vs Emotional and Human-interest vs Non-human-interest before and during the crisis, while there was no difference in their posts on all three frames after the crisis. After the crisis, both media houses make Facebook posts more open and direct on their propaganda, they focus the majority of their post on evoking inherent emotions of men. And finally, both media house focuses their Facebook posts on people or group of people that have suffered from the gulf crisis.
Limitations of the study
The data was collected from only one social media site, which is not representative of all the people in the society. There are many people in the other social media sites hence it is advisable to consider then in the research so as to get a sample that will represent the whole population of people. There are several social media sites in the world which the people can use as a platform for communication. The other limitation is the fact that that the research only focuses on the people who are on the social media platforms. There is a good number of the people who are not on the social media platforms and they are part of the society. The research is somewhat discriminative since it does not consider such individuals in the society.
Propaganda is an enemy of peace in a given country. It causes the people to hate the administration that is on power through some unwarranted or unsubstantiated claims. The vice also leads to hate among the members of the public as they try to outdo each other using the false claims. It is important for the governments to find ways that they will use in dealing with propaganda in the society as a result of the negative effects it costs among the people in society. One of the most important way of dealing with the issue is by encouraging the proper use of social media as well as monitoring the media for any case of wrong doing among the people in the society. The social media can be used as both a way to forge the unity of the people in the country and may also be used to create enmity and hatred among the people in the society.
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