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The Dynamics of Mediatized Conflicts

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Edited By Mikkel Fugl Eskjær, Stig Hjarvard and Mette Mortensen

This book engages with the mediatized dynamics of political, military and cultural conflicts. In today’s global and converging media environment, the interrelationship between media and conflict has been altered and intensified. No longer limited to the realms of journalism and political communication, various forms of new media have allowed other social actors to communicate and act through media networks. Thus, the media not only play an important role by reporting conflicts; they have also become co-constitutive of the ways conflicts develop and spread.
The first part of the book, Transnational Networks, addresses the opportunities and challenges posed by transnational media to actors seeking to engage in and manage conflicts through new media platforms. The second part, Mobilising the Personal: Crossing Public and Private Boundaries, concerns the ways in which media framings of conflicts often revolve around personal aspects of public figures. The third part, Military, War, and Media, engages with a classic theme of media studies – the power relationship between media, state, and military – but in light of the mediatized condition of modern warfare, in which the media have become an integrated part of military strategies.
The book develops new theoretical arguments and a series of empirical studies that are essential reading for students and scholars interested in the complex roles of media in contemporary conflicts.
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Chapter Nine: Mediatized Death in Post–Arab Spring Conflicts

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CHAPTER NINE

Mediatized Death IN Post–Arab Spring Conflicts

LILIE CHOULIARAKI



DIGITAL WITNESSING AND MEDIATIZED DEATH1

‘Why did it take so long for some sections of the media to recognise the huge ethi­cal problems inherent in showing pictures, taken by perpetrators, of human beings undergoing extreme psychological torture?’ Published in The Independent (May 10, 2014), upon the release of the video of Allan Henning’s beheading by ISIS, the question illustrates some of the increasing pressures of witnessing violent death that the digital imagery of conflict has come to exert upon Western journalism. It is these pressures that I explore in this chapter. My starting point is the practice of ‘digital witnessing’, in which conflict reporting takes place via mobile phone footage, through real-time uploading and embedding, tagging and forwarding. Digital witnessing, I argue, raises new challenges for Western journalism, challenges about the status of death images (is it authentic?), our relationship to them (what should we feel?), and the power relationships within which they are embedded (who dies and how does this matter?). Central, though not exclusive, to these challenges are local actors’ own recordings of the conflict zones they inhabit as a testimonial act: an act of representation that makes death public in ways that mobilise emotion and invite a response—be this outrage, compassion, contempt, or vengeance.

Digital witnessing, however, is not simply about local actors’ use of cameras to record...

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