Media Development Center publishes article on digital diplomacy in Palestine

The Media Development Center at Birzeit University released a specialized article entitled “Digital Diplomacy and its Status in Palestinian Foreign Politics.” The article was authored by Media Program Coordinator in the University College at the Islamic University Dr. Wa’el Abedelal, and supervised by Professor of Media at Birzeit University, Dr. Saleh Masharqa.

The article presented a review of the literature pertinent to this new discipline, and examined the developments of what is now known as “Diplomatic Facebook,” and “Tweediplomacy” on Twitter. The article also evaluated the possibilities of social network and digital media use by world leaders, presidents, and foreign ministers to advance a nation’s narrative outside of its borders.

In addition, the article covered international experiences in this field, such as the UK’s digital diplomacy, France’s influence diplomacy, Denmark’s appointment of its first Silicon Valley ambassador, and the Israeli occupation’s attempt to present its version of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the world.

The article also analyzed the realities of digital diplomacy in Palestinian foreign policy, and evaluated the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, Flickr, and the Ministry’s website on four standards: Attendance and presence; customization; level of interaction; and progress.  

The paper recommended the drafting of a “strategic vision for Palestinian digital diplomacy, in which it is positioned as one of the top priorities of diplomatic efforts as a soft-power tool used in the battle to present the Palestinian narrative.” The paper also advocates “taking advantage of the huge technological digital capabilities which have become part and parcel of the lives of millions worldwide.”

The article also called for the establishment of a “special department for digital diplomacy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would present operational and motivational benefits that would guarantee the best digital diplomatic practices in official Palestinian departments, as well as make use of international conferences, digital diplomacy research and development centers, and specialized annual reports that review digital diplomacy,” which would enable the Ministry to stay abreast of the latest developments in this nascent field.

The research paper also advocated additional training for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ staff, and diplomats working in Palestinian embassies and consulates around the world. Partaking in specialized training courses would allow the staff and diplomats to compete in the digital world, the paper argued.

The article also included a call for a guide on digital platform use for ambassadors, consuls, and spokespersons for non-Arabic-speaking communities. The guide, the paper says, should include the basic steps and etiquette for using social networks and smartphone applications, guaranteeing, in the process, that the Palestinian narrative reaches the widest audience possible.

The paper, which can be read by clicking on this link, was published as a part of the 2017-2018 Media Development Center’s Research and Policies Project – funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – which includes an article on fact-checking in the new media; research on self-organization in Palestinian media; research on editorial policies in Palestinian media organizations; and research on the media’s approach to the UNRWA’s relationship to the Palestinian refugee.