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THE ROLE OF MAINSTREAM AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN SHAPING DEBATES AND NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE GRAND ETHIOPIAN RENAISSANCE DAM. EVIDENCES FROM ETHIOPIA, SUDAN AND EGYPT. [Abstract ID: 0604-02]
The media are often pointed at as key actors in contributing to securitize hydropower projects and in exacerbating transboundary or local water conflicts. International institutions like NBI, IWMI or SIWI seem aware of the role of communication in shaping water conflicts and cooperation and get increasingly involved in training journalists at basin level. However the role of the media in shaping debates over contentious large scale water projects or in influencing negotiations at the regional scale remains an uncharted field of research. We aim to contributing to filling this gap by presenting the preliminary findings of a research that maps debates on Nile related issues in mainstream media and social networks in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Our paper will focus on the debates around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, looking at specific events (i.e. the announcement of the building of the dam in April 2011) and situating these events within the broader political dynamics shaping national debates and international relations (i.e. the Egyptian revolution, the independence of South Sudan…). We are particularly interested in understanding how techno-scientific issues related to GERD are communicated, by whom, and what kind of knowledge is used to legitimise specific projects and claims over the use of Nile waters. The study is bases on: semi-structured interviews to key informants (journalists, policy makers, researchers) in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt; a content analysis of selected newspapers in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt; the analysis of a sample of statements in social media (i.e. Facebook post) in the three countries; three participatory video on the culture and practice of water science communication in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, produced by local journalists in cooperation with local researchers (we will also try to combine the three participatory video in one documentary and if you are interested we can screen it during the conference).