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According to my experience in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (underdeveloped countries) the traditional mass media are extremely destructive. This is because in the past the media were not independent-;- the government controlled them and now many media agencies lack expertise in peace journalism.
This perspective is confirmed in the book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The writer describes how oppressors are always trying to approach people and keep them passive through well-organized propaganda and slogans in the mass media.
But social media and online media have changed the communications landscape. This, however, can be an advantage´-or-disadvantage for peacebuilding and societal transformation/change. It depends on how people use the new media and for what purpose. Media can be an embodiment of freedom and opportunity for building peace used in proper ways.
I believe the turning point in Iraq for social media to replace mass media was in 2010 when the first peace carnival was arranged and held in Baghdad by Iraqi youth and covered only by social media through a Facebook page created for the event (Baghdad City of Peace Carnival – World Peace Day). Since then Facebook has become a symbol of peace for Iraqi youth.
Working with social media has been part of my job since 2010, I was responsible for managing the IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) program “Building Bridges through Technology” and the “Women in Technology” program of IIE (Institute of International Education). Both programs proved the unique impact of social media in transforming individual and group relationships, and became s symbol for freedom of expression and building peace.
Social media have become important tools for communication and dialogue in conflict and post-conflict situations in countries where security is a big concern. Individuals and groups with different perspectives can communicate easily-;- it’s a symbol of safety for them, and a secure means to express their ideas and opinions concerning sensitive and contentious issues.
I believe that the new media and technology can bring new words and language to new worlds, but the unified language of the oppressor can still persist within a country’s boundaries. (The book Teaching to Transgress also emphasizes the idea of new language). The new language focuses more on ideas because ideas are more important than languages alone. Ideas easily shared through online social networking services can help heal the traumatized body and mind in the new media world.
I believe that after the revolution of the Arab Spring social media will be the new embodiment of peace, democracy, and liberation all over the world. Social media have already played a central role in shaping the new political map of the Arab region.