Anna pointed me to this new Freedom House study on women's rights in Egypt. Fascinating stuff - they held a series of focus groups from May to June with Egyptians to talk about women's rights.
While the whole thing is interesting, I - of course - am most intrigued by their findings on the impact of the Arab media. Here's the first "key finding" reported in the executive summary:
"A media revolution is creating greater public awareness and presenting new opportunities to impact public attitudes on women. Like many other countries in the Arab world, Egypt is undergoing a media revolution, in large part sparked by competition from new satellite television channels. Viewers find interactive and participatory programs such as call-in shows and debates appealing, and there is a strong appetite for programs that address social problems.... No participant in the research mentions the US-sponsored media outlets, including Al Hurra television, Radio Sawa, and Hi Magazine."
Couldn't have said it better myself - the Freedom House focus groups confirm my own findings and arguments made here on the blog and elsewhere - but it's always nice to get external validation of these kinds of findings.
In the more extensive section on the media revolution, there are a couple of nice tidbits. I liked this one: "One woman from a rural village near Asyut praises the Arabic language Sesame Street children's program now on Egyptian television for helping educate her children." All hail Sesame Street! (although Elmo is seriously annoying, I have to say.. I prefer the golden days of Big Bird and Snuffleupagus, though I guess I'm showing my age). Seriously, I know a guy who was involved in the first project to create the Arabic language Sesame Street, and I've always thought that he had a lot to be proud of.
Another nice bit: they quote one college-aged man in Cairo about the popularity of al Jazeera: "If you have satellite channels, you can know more about your own country than what you learn from local channels." Absolutely right - and Egyptians know it.
And a final one: "Egyptians indicate that two attractive features of the new media options are that they are interactive and participatory... Participation is crucial: television and radio shows that give room for the audience to call in, ask questions, voice their concerns, and vote for their favorite singer are popular." Al Hurra, of course, broadcasts out of Virginia... and its political talk shows are pre-recorded, not live. Go figure.