Bildet viser en journalist i Tunisia

JOURNALISM AFTER THE ARAB SPRING: What is the role of journalists in the social and political polarization that has followed the Arab uprisings? That is the main focus of this project.

Photograph: NTB Scanpix

Journalism in struggles for democracy: media and polarization in the Middle East

2017 - 2020 (Completed)
Research Project
What is the role of journalists in the social and political polarization that has followed the Arab uprisings?

The combined effect of political upheavals and technology-driven media transformations has put social and political cohesion in the Arab world under pressure. Taking Tunisia and Lebanon as cases, the project investigates how media professionals accentuate or alleviate societal tensions by interpreting confusing and contentious events. 

The project sets out to conceptualize journalism in the Tunisian and Lebanese contexts and to analyze its political role. We build on the assumption that journalism is a key agency to make sense of the world, which becomes crucial in times of dramatic change. Times of uncertainty upset people’s habitual interpretive frameworks and increase the media’s ability to shape public consciousness. The project studies journalism in terms of communities of interpretation, focusing on actors that are in position to influence the political agenda and lead the public debate. 

The research draws on a combination of field observations and textual analysis, paying close attention to the political context and the journalistic communities in which texts are produced. We compare coverage over different media channels (television, electronic news, and print) and study the impact of citizen journalism. The project uses focus group interviews to evaluate the impact of journalistic interpretation on the public.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway, under the programme FRIPRO.


“Whenever you bribe a journalist, you provoke another”

March 16, 2023

“If people think all journalists fight for democracy and stand up against the authorities, they need to think again. Journalism plays a much more complex role,” says NUPI researcher Kjetil Selvik.

Journalister demonstrerer og holder opp plakater i Tunisia.

How do journalists in the Middle East cope with political pressure?

May 3, 2021

All over the world, media-owners and lobbyists use journalists and the media as political tools for their own ends. How do journalists cope with this? A NUPI project has examined this issue in Tunisia and Lebanon.


Publication : Academic article

Hybrid Media and Hybrid Politics: Contesting Informational Uncertainty in Lebanon and Tunisia

This paper investigates the dynamic relationship between hybrid media and hybrid politics in Lebanon and Tunisia. While previous research on the media ...
Publication : Academic article

Journalism under instrumentalized political parallelism

Media systems where political parallelism co-exists with political clientelism have contradictory influences on journalistic practices. Journalists are ...
Publication : Academic article

Debating terrorism in a political transition: Journalism and democracy in Tunisia

In March 2015, in the midst of a political transition, Tunisia was rocked by a terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in downtown Tunis in which 21 people ...
Publication : ARTIKKEL

Elite Survival and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Tunisia and Egypt

The article compares the survival of old regime elites in Tunisia and Egypt after the 2011 uprisings and analyses its enabling factors. Although democracy ...

Project Manager

The Middle East and North Africa  Conflict  Governance

Sara Merabti Elgvin

Former employee


Jacob, Høigilt, PRIO
Katrin, Voltmer, University of Leeds