Professor Carles Roca
Media and Politics
The Tunisian Revolution in the Age of New Media
In the 21st century new, flexible, mobile, and distributive advancements in technology has created ample opportunities for online users to connect with groups of people who share common interests and opinions, who before, were unable to. The ever-expanding opportunities granted to the public by these advancements has had both positive and negative effects on issues regarding social crises around the world. On December 18th, 2010 the people of Tunisia began their first active protests as a form of civil resistance in response to a government that due to years of repression created poor living conditions, unemployment, corruption, lack of freedom of speech, facilities, inflation, and political freedom. The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was one of the first revolutions to effectively use social media as a way of sparking collective action amongst its people with hopes of creating a successful social movement. In the country of Tunisia, the use of technology such as social media, television, and the Internet all played an equal part in the successful overthrowing of a repressive government by appealing to the emotional grievances of the public under one identity, and eliminating the ability of the government to censor information detrimental to Ben Ali’s reign through new forms of media.
President Ben Ali had ruled Tunisia since 1987 and created a government that emphasized foreign investment and the repression of political opposition. Although there are many actions carried out by Ben Ali that can be considered repressive and questionable decisions, there are three main ones that lead to public displeasure during his rule. These three being his corrupt ruling style, increased unemployment and economic stagnation, and shrinking of press freedom. According to an interview conducted on the Al Jazeera website, “Ben Ali adjusted laws to serve the interests of his family and those close to him to detriment the rest of Tunisia.” With unemployment rising to 14% and basic everyday necessities like food becoming harder to buy, you can see how this would anger the people of Tunisia. Many of the unemployed who were suffering from Ben Ali’s rule were young college graduates who benefitted from the relatively good public schools in Tunisia. This further expanded the feeling of hatred and displeasure towards President Ben Ali. Lastly Ben Ali’s use of censorship created a repressed feeling amongst citizens and a loss of freedom. During his rule, Ben Ali’s son-in-law bought a publishing house that printed four newspapers, further angering the already bitter Tunisians about the president’s billionaire relatives controlling the government. President Ben Ali’s corrupt and repressive government would build anger amongst the people of Tunisia that would eventually lead to the mobilization of a revolution sparked by new media. Tunisia was a...