First Syrian Tweet up meeting!

…Well it’s not really the “first” (it’s the fourth!) but it’s the first I’ve attended ever in Damascus.

Meeting was supposed to start at 5 pm and finish at 7 pm on 29th nov. but it lasted until midnight!As everything in Damascus this came as a surprise: I think most of the people attending didn’t expect something peculiar to happen, we just went for curiousity to meet our online folks. A lawyer, a designer, a translator, a web developer, a bunch of geeks and Linux enthusiasts, people with very different backgrounds came. I’ve attended many online-offline meetings so far and my experience is that there is always a “cold” moment, a moment were the conversation has to be set yet, or sometime people simply don’t find sympathetic with each other.

But what I saw today in Damascus was so far the best discussion ever between people who didn’t know each other before and just enjoyed the taste of discovery and talking about technology, law, freedom, philosophy, society, art, many topics and so many insights coming from so many different backgrounds. The meeting lasted hours of talks, food, drinks, smoke and so much fun.

That’s the magic of Damascus and Syrian people, something in their way of talking about stuff that is so enthralling. Thanks to @basselsafadi@mkayyali @aularon @Beshrkayali @MeXp_sy @linux_lady @zaherg @hosamakras @free_programmer and the others who were there at my first (and not last!) Syrian Tweet up!

Beirut Media Forum 2009

I’d like to republish this article from the Daily Star which reports about the Beirut Media Forum , a conference I just attended in Beirut.



Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star
Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Beirut forum explores impact of media on activism in the Middle East
By Farah-Silvana Kanaan
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: Media experts gathered Friday to discuss the interaction between media, web use and social, political and religious mobilization in the Middle East. The fifth Beirut Media Forum brought together the media-savvy for 10 lectures addressing obstacles facing socio-political documentary filmmakers and the rise of online social activism and citizen journalism in the Arab region. The forum, this year entitled, “Mobilizations on stage: The Image of the Real and the Verity of the Image,” is organized annually by the Institut Francais du Proche Orient, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Orient-Institute Beirut.
Patrick Hazard, anthropologist and director of the London International Documentary Festival was skeptical about documentary filmmaking being  a tool to jump-start social change.
“Documentary filmmakers are usually surrounded by this mystique of being independent thinkers and actors. They often have this romanticized idea that they are merely bearing witness and giving voice to the voiceless when, in reality, they are quite a conservative bunch vis a vis the political status quo,” Hazard said, adding funders often exert considerable influence over film content, which “automatically creates a tension between ethical concerns and economic interests.”
“In my experience, those economic interests are usually the key concern for most parties involved,” he added.
Naomi Sakr, director of the Communication and Media Research Institute Arab Media Center at the University of Westminster in London, meanwhile spoke about ongoing structural changes in the Arab media industry and advances in digital technology on documentary films. According to Sakr, the expansion of television channels has sparked a demand for content that attracts young and elite viewers. At the same time, more young directors are filming more cheaply and discreetly and are using alternative means to distribute their products. “A result of this phenomenon has been a rise in films exploring socio-political issues that were previously rarely acknowledged in the agenda of conventional Arab news media,” she said.
Sakr said one of the biggest issues in the Middle East was that many documentaries often did not end up being screened. One such example is “Jihad on Horseback,” a highly critical 2003 documentary about the conflict in Darfur, produced by Al-Arabiyya television. The film was never aired by Al-Arabiyya because of a private campaign against it by Sudanese politicians, although it was later bought and distributed by the International Crisis Group.
“Cooperation between political powers is crucial to a documentary film being made and screened,” Sakr said. A filmmaker’s personal connections with local political leaders or other influential personalities, known in the Mideast as wasta (nepotism) also plays a key role.
Italian political scientist Do­natella Della Ratta spoke about the Arab social web by discuss­ing her findings on how online networks were re-shaping off­line action in the Arab world. The social web, she explained, is viewed as the second generation of the web and relies heavily on user-generated content, communities, networking and social interaction. It “offers two key elements ingrained in the Western political system of democracy, namely representation and mediation.” The social Arab web is empowering citizen journalism and civic participation by giving voice to “ordinary people,” Della Ratta said.
This form of citizen journalism was used during Lebanon’s June parliamentary elections by the Sharek961 website. The site enabled Lebanese citizens to promote transparency by sending in eyewitness reports on all election-related incidents or issues through text messages and the website. However, as Della Ratta admitted, the percentage of people in the Arab world who engage in such forms of social activism, or even have Internet access, is relatively low. “I would argue that in the Arab world you will find a qualitative rather than a quantitative audience, small in size but young and educated,” she said.
Christophe Varin, director of the Center for the Study of the Modern Arab World at Universite Saint-Joseph, expressed doubt that new media was leading to political mobilization in Lebanon. Varin has analyzed YouTube videos in relation to political mobilization since the so-called Cedar Revolution protests in 2005. He argued that YouTube, rather than providing a platform for civic participation and activism, was mostly another outlet for violence.
“The comments posted under YouTube videos are often used as a platform for linguistic violence,” he said, noting that many web users similarly post videos to solely express their opinions rather than in the hope of inspiring real debate or consensus. But Varin did agree with Della Ratta that a new form of citizen journalism has been catapulted into society, filling the gaps created by traditional media. “The Lebanese new media are going through a de-politicization process,” he said.

Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star

Creative Commons Jordan launch and first Arab world Salon to be held on 15-16 nov in Amman

Creative Commons is finally due to launch in Jordan next sunday 15th nov with a big gathering of law experts  from all across the world and the Arab Region. Ziad Maraqa and Rami Olwan, CC Jordan leads, have organised a conference at Talal Abu Ghazaleh business Forum that will frame the debate around the launch of CC Jordan in the broader context of copyright reform, and will focus on how CC could be applied to business, artistic, entrepreneurial activities in the Arab world by showcasing case studies as the CC AL Jazeera repository.

Science Commons will be introduced for the first time in the Arab world.

The conference will start at 10 am at the Talal Abu Ghazaleh Business College at the German Jordanian University, Mekka Street, Amman. Conference will be opened by Ministry of Justice Aiman Odeh, and will feature opening remaks of Joi Ito, Ceo of Creative Commons, and Talal Abu Ghazaleh. Then the Jordan team will present the work they have been doing over the past years on the translation and porting process.

Other speakers include Diane Peters (General Counsel of Creative Commons), John Wilbanks (VP of Science Commons), Prof. Brian Fitzgerald (project lead of Creative Commons Australia at Professor at Queensland University Of Technlogy, Brisbane).

On the 16th Creative Commons will celebrate the first ever CC Arab Salon. Event is due to kick off at 6pm @Al Balad Theatre in Downtown Amman.

The Salon will feature media organisations, artists, bloggers and creative people from the Arab world who have used CC licenses and would like to share the results of opening up their work.

The Amman Salon is going to be a major step going towards fostering the creation of original Arabic content and encouraging the people to share it with the entire world.  To this extent, the enthusiastic support of the Royal Film Commission who is co-organising the event under the Royal Patronage of Prince Ali bin al Hussein has been extremely key and encouraging.

A big thank to the enourmous efforts of the wide variety of passionate people and hard workers that were involved in organising this, and of course to the pioneer artists from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Qatar that are going to showcase their “CC under” works! and thanks to the Jordan Open Source Association that has designed the logo of the Salon and set up an online contest to vote the most popular option which proved to be this one:





And that’s the final programme of the Salon. It’s going to be lots of artists and lots of fun! Spread the word and join us in Amman!


Opening greetings: HRH Prince Ali bin al Hussein, Chairman of the Royal Film Commission

Greetings and overview on CC: Joi Ito, Ceo Creative Commons

Use of CC in the Arab world. The pioneers:

CC for media:

Moeed Ahmad, Al Jazeera (Qatar)

Nora Younis, Al Masry Al Youm (Egypt)

CC for visual artists:

Naeema Zarif (Lebanon)

Ahmad Ali (Syria)

CC for comics:

Maya Zankoul (Lebanon)

CC for a creative economy

Nadine Toukan and Yusuf Mansur, Urdun Mubdi3 (Jordan)

CC for filmmakers:

Cyril Aris and Mouna Akl (Lebanon)

CC for Social Media Community Projects

Ramsey Tesdell and Lina Ejleilat (Jordan)

CC for user generated content and Internet start ups:

Laith Zraikat, Jeeran (Jordan)

CC for poetry:

Emad Nasser, Seejal (Jordan)

CC for geeks:

Bassel Safadi, Discover Syria (Syria)

Eman Jaradat, Jordan Open Source Association (Jordan)

Music remix and live act by Rejon (US-China)