Political crisis experienced in Tunisia, which at the moment has produced the eviction of the President Ben Ali, in power for 23 years, is the first one to happen after Wikileaks filtrations.
We show in this post some results concerning international media attention to this event. They clearly shows that at least in this case Wikileaks informations appear as part of the sources used to explain what is happening in Tunisia, and as a tool for the media in some countries to scrutinize the eventual role of the United States diplomacy in this country.
Using MRI Universidad de Navarra analysis tools, we count with the means to assess the extent of the present political turmoil, using the media coverage given to Tunisia worldwide. As explained in precedent posts, we capture and stock at MRI the information concerning the number of news referred to countries, companies or personalities, their geographical origin and their content profile. With this data base we produce media impact analysis like the one shown in the following graph. It refers to the media impact of Tunisia, measured since April 2008. As mentionned, it is estimated by identifying all press articles worldwide referring to Tunisia. A media impact value of 1 indicates that this country receives the same amount of news than the avearge of all 190 countries in our data set.
Our results show that the intrinsic media impact value of Tunisia is about 0.5 points. The time evolution of Tunisia media value allows us to identify the impact of any event in the recent history of this country. Present political crisis pushes international media coverage of Tunisia to a 6.5 points of media value, while the precent historical peak was just above 1 point.
In order to provide a term of comparison, our estimations indicate that the intrinsic media value of Chile is about 5 points. It reached a peak of 12.5 points in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and 14.5 points around the sucessful rescue of the 33 miners (you can download here full report, in Spanish)
This result provides some perspective of the impact of the present crisis in recent history. It shows also that in many parts of the world Tunisia political, economic and social profile remained largely unknown as it was not a key media player. One implication of the current crisis is that it will not only have a substantial impact in internal political terms, but it will produce a lasting impact in its international media image: as quick as media focus is turning massively to this country right now, they will also vanish if the country succeeds in a peaceful transition. Which means that many people of the world will forge their image of what Tunisia is with the information gathered and reproduced by media during these days. We will show in this post that a significative share of this information is baked with Wikileaks cables.
First graph on Wikileaks shows the evolution of the Head of States Wikipedia Index values for President Ben Ali. Wikileaks news related to the President are barely absent till the end of the year. When civil unrest and demonstrations start, also news begin to be published using Wikielaks revealed cables. It rises to substantial values by January 5, and it explodes in the final stage of the crisis, reaching a value of more than 20 points (i.e. Ben Ali is subject of Wikileaks news in a number which is 20 times higher than the average of all head of States in the world).
We show an analogous result, but this time related with the Wikileaks Country Media Impact Index. The interpresation of the values is the same than before. Before the start of the crisis, Tunisia was almost no subject by global media to Wikileaks scrutinizing. Some news already appeared by mid December, but the presence of Tunisia related to Wikleaks did not increase till New Year, when the street disrupts started. Since then, the rise of Wikileaks sources in Tunisia crisis news is constant, and has exploded with the resignment of President Ben Ali, reaching an index value of 3.6 points.
Next graph shows a complementary information, that we apply to news related to Tunisia. It shows the rate of all news in the world concerning Tunisia that directly refer to any Wikileaks issue. By mid December, the wieght of Wikileaks filtrations account for 3 to 5% of all news about Tunisia. Last week worldwide attention to Tunisia crisis shortly decreased the weight of Wikileaks, but once the unexpected abandon of power by President ben Ali occurred, the use and the weight of Wikielaks data hugely increases and by now reaches a level of more then 7% of all news.
The share of Wikileaks issues with former President Ben Ali moved in the 10-20% range, which is considerably high. Is experienced a substantial increase at the beginning of the crisis, but the global media impact of his resignation has hidden the relevance of Wikileaks filtrations.
Next graphs show how the media in each country uses Wikielaks information in the storyline of the Tunisian crisis. The results are quite clear: local media have considered not appropriate to disseminate Wikileaks informations
First graph refer to media from countries in the region, and we compare it with the global average attention given to Wikielaks, as its presence is marginal, not even reaching a level of 2% of all news referring to Tunisia, while the global rate is 7%. Specially notorious is the low level of attention providen in the origin of the conflict, as less than 0.5% of news refer to Wikileaks.
In European countries the use of Wikileaks related in formation is also below global average, except for the case of Belgium and Turkey.
In other countries with weack geographical and political ties with Tunisia, we find that the share of Wikileaks news is in general higher. This is specially the case for US media, Indonesia and Canada. As pointed out at the beginning of this post, media from different countries use information from US State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks to cover the news about Tunisia political crisis.
As indicated in the title of this post, we find that Wikileaks is also used to judge or at least scrutinize US international policy and its particular role in Tunisia. In the following graph we show the weight of Wikileaks issues in news related to Tunisia and United States together. US media are those referring in a higher proportion to Wikileaks sources, with a share of more than 20% of all news. Interestingly enough, we find again that almost no mention is made to it by local media in the region: Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.