In the News: Anti-Government Protests Sweep the Globe

February 21, 2014

Backside view of a protester, wearing colours of the Ukrainian flag, facing a wall of flames set by protestors. Kyiv, Ukraine, January 22, 2014.This week, a wave of anti-government protests swept the globe, stretching from Ukraine to Venezuela to Thailand. Though each different in its own way, the gritty images these movements have produced tell a familiar story—citizens, fed-up with their corrupt and incompetent leaders, want change and are not backing down.

The most talked about movement is the one occurring in Ukraine, which culminated in a bloody government crackdown this Tuesday in the city of Kyiv. The clash left 20 protesters dead and the city’s central square engulfed in flames. That same day, similarly dramatic events happened in two other distant regions of the world: In Venezuela, tens of thousands of protesters gathered en masse in support of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez as he was driven away by authorities. In Thailand, violence erupted in the city of Bangkok as anti-government protesters came head-to-head with police.

As these events have unfolded, many in the midst of them have been using various forms of media to further their cause. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been cited as essential means for organizing, mobilizing, and sharing information. Video is another powerful tool: a young Ukrainian woman teamed up with the producers of A Whisper to a Roar  to create the video “I am a Ukrainian”—already it has received over 5,300,000 views on YouTube, as well as being reposted on numerous blogs and news sites.

According to the article “From flames to fiery opposition, protests rock Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand,” CNN’s iReport has also been playing an important role. iReport is CNN’s “citizen journalism” initiative that allows people from around the world to submit stories, photos, and videos of breaking news. Thousands of powerful images of the events happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand have been posted.

If all of this sounds familiar, it may be because it mirrors some of the unique features of the “Arab Spring”—the term journalists use for the wave of political protests that occurred in the Middle East a few years ago. Many attribute the success of these movements to the use of social media and alternative news outlets such as Al Jazeera, which is available online and via satellite. Such tools allowed people to circumvent the influence of state-run news stations and government censorship. In “Challenging Authority in Cyberspace: Evaluating Al Jazeera Arabic Writers,” published in Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 25.3, authors Mbaye Lo and Andi Frkovich provide an in-depth analysis of Al Jazeera’s content and how it impacted the revolutions in the Middle East.

Have you been following the protests? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @utpjournals.

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