The Listening Post

Grappling with the far right on the UK’s airwaves

Do the media help manufacture far-right movements? Plus, Ethiopia’s new prime minister and the hope for media reform.

On The Listening Post this week: Which came first? Public support for far-right movements or media coverage of them? Plus, Ethiopia’s new prime minister and the hope for media reform.

Grappling with the far right on the UK’s airwaves

In seeking to explain the rise of far-right, anti-immigration movements in countries like Great Britain, many are asking what role the media have played: do such movements and the support that they attract drive media coverage – or is it the other way around?

Do the news media, through excessive coverage, help manufacture that support?

Take Tommy Robinson, a far-right agitator who calls himself a warrior for freedom of speech on issues such as migration. When he rails against the supposedly creeping influence of political Islam over UK society, it resonates with certain audiences.

But what came first: his new-found popularity or the media’s coverage of him?

Claire Fox – Director, Academy of Ideas
Richard Seymour – Author and commissioning editor, Salvage
Justin Murphy – Assistant professor, University of Southampton

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Johanna Hoes about the arrest of Bangladeshi journalist Shahidul Alam after his allegedly “provocative” interview on Al Jazeera, and the change of tune at Hungarian channel Hir TV following its takeover by an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

How social media shaped Ethiopia’s political revolution

After years of protests that culminated in a state of emergency, in February 2018 Ethiopia saw an unexpected change of its political guard. The surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn led to Abiy Ahmed, a leader of the Oromo tribe, taking power.

In the four months since he took office, Abiy has forged an historic agreement to end the 20-year standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea and made bold, wide-ranging promises to end the authoritarianism of his predecessors.

The media, specifically social media, are central to this story: it was Ethiopians’ constant use of platforms like Facebook and Twitter to coordinate protests, beyond the reach of government censorship, that preceded the recent power shift.

The Listening Post‘s Flo Phillips reports on how social media have shaped Ethiopia’s political revolution, and what some of the most influential Ethiopian journalists are hoping for under Abiy.

Jawar Mohammed – founder, Oromia Media Network
Tsedale Lemma – editor-in-chief, Addis Standard
Tamrat G. Giorgis – managing editor, Addis Fortune
Eskinder Nega – journalist and blogger
Ahmed Shide – Ethiopian communications minister