Posted on March 21, 2016

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) released preliminary information from its annual research survey on usage and attitudes toward media in six Arab countries. One of the key findings in the survey was that people in the Middle East are more concerned about online monitoring by private companies than they are about online monitoring by governments.

The survey, “Media Use in the Middle East” documents trends in Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE, and was done in partnership with the Doha Film Institute. The university has released the survey annually since 2013. Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, discussed the findings on attitudes related to online privacy concerns in the region. Speaking at a panel discussion at the International Press Institute’s (IPI) World Congress, Dennis previewed early findings from the study which relate to the use of social media. The full report will be released next month.

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“The media use study,” Dennis said, “is a systematic means of understanding the region, beyond news headlines and subjective commentary. The knowledge of how people use media—and what they think about them—offers insights about the social and political climate, as well as vital societal issues like freedom of expression. This survey, coupled with the media industry report released last month, continues Northwestern University in Qatar’s research expertise in the fields of media and communication.”

Among the findings released by NU-Q, was despite the fact that - with the exception of Tunisia - the majority of nationals in all countries feel the internet should be more tightly regulated in their country, internet users in most countries are more concerned about online surveillance by companies than by governments. The study which gets funding from the Qatar National Research Fund and the Doha Film Institute, revealed that majorities of social media users in the Middle East, with the exception of Qatar, are increasingly concerned about social media.

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The Dean moderated the panel at the IPI World Congress on Media Use and Regulation in the MENA Region. Joining Dennis on the panel were Dr. Hessa Al Jabar, former Minister of Information and Communications Technology; Lina Ejeilat, co-founder and executive editor,, Jordan; Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future and head of the World Internet Project at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California; and Nabeel Rajab, president and co-founder, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who was Skyped into the conference.

The media use survey is the largest annual study of its kind in the region and was conducted in collaboration with Harris Poll. Fieldwork took place from December 20, 2015 to February 27, 2016 and involved 6,058 interviews, including 4,529 nationals, which constitutes a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 or over in each country.