10.6.2011 | POSTI Main Building, Helsinki
STETE organised a seminar on new media and contemporary crises at Helsingin Pääpostitalo. The purpose of the seminar was to look into what kind of difference does the new media make in contemporary crisis situations. The discussion covered topics such as new media's influence on social and political reforms, Finnish government's utilization of it, information warfare, as well as the Wikileaks phenomenon and its meaning to freedom of speech and national security. At the event it was also possible to hear insights from Egypt with regards to the upraisal of spring 2011.
Welcome: Arto Nokkala, Docent, National Defence University, Member of STETE's Security Council
Jyrki Iivonen, Director, Media and Communications Unit,
Ministry of Defence
Jari Sinkari, Director, Unit for Communications, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Nadine Hani Abdalla, Researcher, Arab Forum for Alternatives Studies,
Janne Hopsu, Journalist, MTV3
Tapio Kujala, Media Researcher, School of Communication,
Media and Theatre, University of Tampere
Chair: Professor Tuomo Melasuo, Director of Research, Tampere Peace Research Institute, University of Tampere
Role of New Media in Contemporary Crises
STETE’s seminar ”the Role of New Media in Contemporary Crises” was organised 10 June 2011. The seminar aimed to shed light on current changes in the sphere of media and media usage. Media has played an important role during the various conflicts in 2011, especially during the so-called ”Arab uprising” and the Japan earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident that followed. Traditional media cannot survive in today’s world without developing new, adapted methods and tools, and this particular tool is on everyone´s lips: the social media.
The purpose of the seminar was to look into, what kind of difference does the new media make in contemporary crisis situations. The discussion covered topics such as new media's influence on social and political reforms, Finnish government's utilization of it, information warfare, as well as the Wikileaks phenomenon and its implications to the freedom of speech and national security.
The seminar´s topic was examined from different perspectives by Finnish experts and the Egyptian guest speaker, Nadine Hani Abdalla, researcher at the Arab Forum for Alternative Studies in Cairo. Hani Abdalla´s visit was part of the Anna Lindh Foundation´s initiative “Believe in Dialogue – Act for Citizenship”.
Traditional media vs. new media
Today, different conflicts can be followed 24/7. Not only journalists have the access to sharing and creating media contents, but also normal people. As professor Tuomo Melasuo from Tampere Peace Research Institute TAPRI put it, the new media has changed our image on participation, and now we are also producing content to media, not only consuming media content ourselves. This has been made possible through Twitter, Facebook, smart phones etc.
Overall, the world has become smaller due the rapid development of information technology and infrastructure. It has been argued that one of the first events that changed traditional media usage was the Vietnam War in 1970´s, when television brought this war into people´s living rooms. The next big stage was the end of the Cold War, when politics became public, as Jyrki Iivonen from the Ministry of Defence emphasized.
A tool for transparency and for propaganda
Nadine Hani Abdalla argued that the new media provides an unlimited number of possibilities. She stated that the slogan for cyber activists is “If you want a free society, just give people free internet”. However, in the context of the Arab uprising it was emphasized that the social media did not enable the revolution, but was a great tool for mobilising people, for example to lead them to the famous Tahrir square and to spread information locally and internationally. Janne Hopsu from MTV3 television channel stressed that the strength of the social media lies in its possibility to adapt to rapidly changing situations, especially when social media may be the only channel for journalists to get information from conflict areas, taking Syria as an example.
Jari Sinkari from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs spoke about the use of social media during the Japan earthquake disaster. He told that their Tokyo Embassy´s Facebook page's number of followers increased rapidly at the time. People started to use the page trying to reach Finns in Japan, and the page served as a platform for sharing the security situation updates. However, the critical side was also emphasized: if there are now functional mobile or internet network, even the new media fails.
It was argued that the new media creates transparency, but on the other hand, it can be a tool for propaganda. Tapio Kujala from Tampere University brought up the conflict between Israel and Palestine and their ceaseless information warfare. He emphasized that very black-and-white “we” and “they” -juxtapositions prevail in existing confrontations, and that both traditional and new media are being used when the image of the enemy is formed, also in the minds of people.