Forskning ved Københavns Universitet - Københavns Universitet


Digital Authoritarianism: Silencing Dissident Syrians in Europe: Digital Authoritarianism: Silencing Dissident Syrians in Europe

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningfagfællebedømt

This paper explores how monitoring of ICTs by the Syrian regime influence connective action among diasporic Syrian activists. The structures of digital observation has forged a strong transnational apparatus of social control aiming at changing people’s behavior and thereby quelling dissent and disobedience. Media seemed a promising means to coordinate political activities and document regime atrocities but as scholars have suggested, social media are tools of both enabling and silencing voice. Media technologies provided the possibilities for showing the world what is going on inside the closed media environment of Syria. Still images and live footage have travelled internationally, making Syria the most mediated conflict in history. With the influx of Syrians to Europe, the wishes for democratic transformation resulted in oppositional activities including the establishment of new media outlets competing the state monopoly inside. However, technological developments have made digital observation more efficient, especially the monitoring of social media. The paper builds on the theory of mediatization, where media has performative agency in a conflict and thus shape identities, political legitimacy, representation, and recognition. The paper shows that the strategy of the Syrian regime to open the internet in the early 2000s, and acknowledging that ICTs could be a threat to their power, have facilitated a resilient manifestation of an omnipresent possibility of being watched induced in most Syrians, excluding the high profiled and well-known activists. The paper builds on 40 semi-structured interviews with Syrian activists in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, tracing the fear of online activism against the Syrian regime. The basis of the study is the activists’ own perceptions and evaluations of media practices and the relation to political activism. The paper traces the developments of political activism in diaspora and how both online and offline engagement have decreased. Some Syrians in this study explain that the situation has returned to a depoliticized fear due to threats of violence. The fear has grown when war actions declined: the regime focused on imprisoning enemies of the state and the prison industry has grown. More have expressed that they cannot say more than “hi, how are you” to relatives in Syria, and how unfriending and censorship permeates their online interactions. Some talk in codes using their own dialect in Arabic – or talk about the weather. The study shows how media practices among Syrian diaspora communities in Europe is multidimensional and puts forward the complexities of the processes of political action formation. The paper argues that these multi-local processes involve multiple interdependent factors, diverse encounters and a variety of struggles. Besides the surveillance, the study finds that ambiguous belonging as well as compassion fatigue are also important factors in the political demobilizing role of media in conflict. The PhD project is part of the collaborative project at the University of Copenhagen entitled Mediatized Diaspora: Contentious Politics Among Arab Media Users in Europe.
StatusAfsendt - 2020
BegivenhedECREA 2020: Communication and Trust - Portugal, Braga, Portugal
Varighed: 2 okt. 20205 okt. 2020


KonferenceECREA 2020

ID: 235475292