The 4th Arab Bloggers meeting

I`m very excited to be joining the upcoming 4th edition of the Arab bloggers meeting in Amman (20-23 January). In the past years, I attended two editions of this amazing gathering of techies and activists from the Region (and wrote about it here and here and here, and  in an academic book still to be published): one in Beirut (2009) and the other one in Tunis (2011).

The Beirut meeting was truly special: it was the first time I attended such a gathering with activists from all across the Arab world. It was exciting. There was a momentum. The Region was filled with enthusiasm, wind of change, energy, excitement for new ways in which technology could eventually have helped social movements to raise and become stronger and stronger. I was living in Damascus at the time, and I had convinced my dear friend Bassel Khartabil aka Safadi to come with me to Beirut and join the meeting. It was his first time with that crowd. Before, he would most likely have joined a geeky crowd, people mostly focused on tech stuff. We enjoyed so much being there. That meeting changed our lives.

Today, two weeks ahead of the Amman meeting, I cannot help thinking about the message that Bassel has sent us from Adra prison in Syria where he has been held for almost two years. I re-publish it here below:

“In 2009, I was honored to have my body and soul with you in Beirut. That meeting taught me a lot and charged me for the next years of civic activism and for the now, with more challenges facing activists, bloggers, and countries. I know for sure that your future is in your hands, and it will be bright since you are still meeting!

I’m honored again to have my soul with you in this meeting while my body is still locked in jail. Which doesn’t matter since we will win the future.”

The Amman meeting is gonna be challenging. We`re gonna be there, and so many of us will be missed, like Bassel, like Alaa, held again by Egyptian authorities.

This is not an easy time for activists, bloggers, human rights believers. Especially in the Arab world. Those who have easily – and too quickly – labelled the uprisings as “Arab Springs” are now changing this definition into “Arab winters”.

Yet, it is not a matter of springs and winters. It is perhaps a matter of seeing change in a broader, long-term perspective. And that`s why we`re gonna be in Amman to talk about mistakes, challenges, upcoming fights. Also for those like Bassel, who cannot be with us; yet, they believe it`s still worth trying.

Creative Commons`Beirut Salon still rocks the city!

Less than two weeks ago, Creative Commons Salon kicked off for the first time in Beirut, and it is still rocking the city with an energizing effect.

Artist Maya Zankoul, who published many of her comics works under CC BY, designed some very cool car stickers for car parking and published them under CC BY NC SA inviting people to use and remix.

The story made a buzz and was covered by national newspaper Al Ahkbar .

The same newspaper announced, during the Beirut Salon -held at Obross last 16 April- to start releasing its web content under a Creative Commons license.

Mansour Aziz, the web and IT manager of Al Akhbar newspaper, who presented at the Salon, said they were hoping to switch to CC for their printed version in the next future.

The Salon also saw Al Jazeera releasing footage specifically on Lebanon for their Creative Commons Al Jazeera repository.

CC Beirut Salon featured Lebanese creativity at its best.

Filmmakers Cyril Aris and Mounia Akl presented their “Beirut I love you I love you not”

singer Tony Yammine and his rock band Meen rocked all over the place with their music

fBassel Safadi gave a very useful CC for filmmakers talk

Jessica Dheere from Social Media Exchange highlighted the use of CC in the Ngos environment

photographer Lara Zankoul delighted the audience with her super stylish CC pics

artist Rania Saghir showed how copyright could be not that boring through her illustrated book

and comics magazine Samandal remixed almost live other Lebanese artists` works under CC to create an interactive mash up

Not to mention the wonderful works presented by Maya Zankoul and Naeema Zarif who were also part of the Beirut Salon`s organizing commitee together with Smex`s  Moham Najem and Yamli`s Habib Haddad.

They made a great job in putting together the first showcase ever of CC Lebanese creativity and  organized a live interactive contest with the audience to create the first CC purely Lebanese slogan. @dashkoun won the competition with his slogan“3tiya men albak”

(I won the second place with my “copyright 3la keifak” immediately remixed by the Lebanese for being too much Syrian!).

Hopefully the winner slogan will be printed on the next to be designed CC Lebanon Tshirt, something as cool as the first one that Maya and Naeema designed and co-remixed for this first Salon (and which I proudly wear!).

And also the official poster for the event was designed by the two Lebanese artists using the same technique of remixing each other`s work

A big thanks to everybody who joined, to @sdarine who was the nice host of the evening, to Beshr Kayali who filmed it (and also presented his podcast under CC), to Joulane from Obross who hosted the Salon, to the slogan competition jury, to the wonderful volunteers` team headed by Maya, Naeema, Mohamed and Habib who organised and to the vibrant Lebanese people who attended and showed their great talent and energy.

Creative Commons Beirut Salon to be held tomorrow at Obross, Beirut!

I`m proud to announce this first Creative Commons Beirut Salon to be held tomorrow 16th April starting at 7pm in  Obross in Hamra, Beirut. With the fantastic energy and passion of people like @MayaZankoul, @Naeema , @HabibH, @MoNajem and many other musicians, illustrators, geeks, visual artists, etc, Creative Commons Lebanese community has been growing and growing during the very past few weeks with incredible results that will be highlighted tomorrow during the presentations.

Please have a look to the programme which is published on different websites

Wiki page:
Maya Zankoul`s blog:

and stay in touch through Twitter @CCBeirut

remix by Maya Zankoul and Naeema Zarif CC BY license

Tomorrow will be a day full of surprises, two great media organisations will make CC related announcements at the Salon and then artists will showcase their music, comics, visual works, films, etc.

We`ll run also a competition about the best and more “lebanese flavoured” CC Slogan (short message, like the 140 twitter characters!) that we`ll use in the future to promote Creative Commons activities in Lebanon. It has to be something cool, inspired by Lebanese street cultures, built up on remix words and expressions from different languages just as it is Lebanon in his everyday vibrant life.

And just as Naeema and Maya did for the beautiful poster of the Salon and image of the Tshirts remixing each other`s work.

(you can buy this cool Tshirt tomorrow to support CC Lebanon and also win it by submitting a cool slogan in pure Lebanese style)

Everybody is welcomed to join this slogan competition submitting proposals through Twitter or coming to the Salon and participating live from there.

Remember: slogan should be short, catchy, remix, street cultures, and purely Lebanese -whatever this means!-.

The list of names to be thanked is sooo long that would take ages . For the moment, I will thank again the beautiful “organising committee” that has showed that Lebanese people are not only creative and energetic but can do a perfect team work and build on sharing and cooperating.

Amazing message to the whole Arab world and the entire world.

Shukran kteer ya sabaya w shabab for this wonderful gift!

YL Social Media Cafe tomorrow at Zico House, Beirut

“Switching from the culture of consumption to the culture of creation. Can Arabs do it?”.

This is the question I’ll try to address in my talk at the YL Social Media Cafe tomorrow 6th of March in Beirut.

And this is one of the gorgeous pics that my  Lebanese friend artist Maya Zankoul has been so kind to design for my presentation (I’m really flattered!). Maya is one of the most promising young Lebanese artists and she also publishes under Creative Commons. People like her make me thinking that yes, of course, that “switching from the culture of consmption to the culture of creation” is possible.

For those of you who are in beautiful Beirut tomorrow, please join us at Zico House in Hamra starting from 4pm.

The YL Social Media Cafe programme is here: and on Facebook.

Thanks to Hiba and her team for inviting me to such an interesting event I’m looking forward to it!

ps. Maya’s illustration is under CC BY license. Pls read the terms of use and don’t trick!!!

Second Arab Bloggers meeting over

The Second Arab Bloggers meeting is just over here in Beirut. It has been an incredible opportunity to meet up and discuss with a bunch of very interesting folks coming from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Egypt,Qatar, Sudan, etc.
We have run into a full week of presentations, workshops, talks and even games and I’ve learned so much from countries that I’ve never expected to be so active on the web 2.0 field.
Bloggers, activists, techno-enthusiasts, hackers, creative people: an incredible variety of mix in terms of backgrounds, skills and contexts but at the same time each of them with more than one interesting project/story to tell.
I’m grateful to Sami Ben Gharbia and the Global Voices team to have put together such a worndeful group people, and to Doreen, Alia, Heba, Corinne and the Heinrich Boll Foundation for having made this thing possible – it was not easy to organise such a meeting, and not only in terms of fundraising-.
It was the first time for me to attend a truly Panarab grassroot meeting and to be able to listen to it in its original language. I realised the power of this language, Arabic, that -even if spoken in so many different accents and local varieties- can link together people coming from 22 countries and let them share ideas and projects.
It’s true that Classical Arabic -or “fus7ha”- is still quite a “cold” language, that is perceived to be distant from people daylife and certainly not suitable for a tech meeting. But I’ve a little hope after this meeting, that a certain kind of “medium or standard dialect” (“3ammieh”) can be developed by each Arab country in order to be understood by the others.
Egyptian is widely understood by everybody not because it is easy (!) but because it has been “the” language of mass communication in the Arab world for many years. And now Syrian and Lebanese are widely understood because of TV.
I think that, despite they are harder to understand, even Tunisian and other North-African dialects could be more popular thru media in the future. They just have to be used, instead of using French (!). I believe that the beautiful Arabic language should be enhanced thru new digital media, but in its local lively versions -together with the Classical “official” one-. I hope that meetings like this could push people to speak more Arabic, learn more Arabic and produce more content in Arabic. Definitely it was like that for me!
And, again, a special thanks to Sami for having put such a network of people together.
I do believe “Panarabism” can happen only this way, thru this grassroots, bottom-up movements.
Shukran kteer wa ila liqa’, inshallah..

more pics are available thanks to Jillian C. York here:

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

Laughing at stereotypes in Beirut


For those of you that are in Beirut those days, there is a very interesting event on 14 th april  at Hangar. Spotlight on stereotypes is organised by Umam a lebanese ngo which takes care of preserving the country history and memories through various activities, supported by artists, filmakers and many international organisations.

The focus this time will be on Danish Arab stereotypes and will feature the performance of famous Danish Egyptian comedian Omar Marzouk. Journalists from Denmark and from the Arab region will be attending the event, and also the Danish Ambassador in Lebanon will address a speech at the opening. Just to prove that Denmark is involved more than ever in trying to enhance communication and cultural exchanges with the Arab world, as previously noted here during Rasmussen‘s trip to Istanbul for the Alliance of civilizations summit.

The discussion will start at 7Pm and will be followed by live Dj music.

More info at: