Date Thesis Awarded

5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

International Relations

Advisor

Maurits van der Veen

Committee Members

Sharan Grewal

Paul Vierthaler

Abstract

The Arab Spring Revolutions of 2011 have had diverse outcomes throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Two states that have experienced large scale change are Tunisia and Egypt, both of which experienced regime change. Tunisia has experienced large-scale democratization and has become more politically open. Egypt experienced a brief democratic period between 2011 and 2013 before a military coup reverted the country to authoritarian practices. Both nations have revised their press codes since their respective revolutions. Additionally, both nations have had tenuous relations with Islamist groups, namely the Tunisian Ennahda party and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Both groups were demonized under the pre-revolution authoritarian state media. However, the media of Egypt and Tunisia have changed in different ways since the revolutions. It is important to look at media and press freedom as an analog for the freedom of civil society during times of transition. However, this is difficult in situations with histories of censorship and repression.

This study will address the treatment of Islamist opposition parties in print media pre and post revolution as a proxy for general political toleration and media freedom. This is done using probabilistic topic modeling and sentiment analysis to determine how frequently various newspapers cover these groups and the tone used in that coverage. This approach allows us to discern a breakdown of preference falsification as well as a change of press and public sentiment over time. This study finds that, while both Tunisia and Egypt see greater media freedom after their respective revolutions, Tunisian state-owned papers remain neutral towards opposition parties, while Egyptian independent papers become much more polarized.

This thesis will begin by exploring the history of Tunisia and Egypt and how it relates to their current political and media landscapes. Next, their media landscapes will be discussed, followed by a literature review of both Arab media and media theory. Each newspaper studied will be introduced and topic modeling and sentiment analysis will be explained in their application to this study. Finally, the analysis and findings of this study will be discussed.

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