Do MENA countries practice digital diplomacy? An analysis of their embassies’ websites in Spain
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This research carries out an analysis of the websites published by MENA countries’ embassies with a presence in Spain, in order to understand whether they practice digital diplomacy. Such activity is a low-cost, wide-ranging public diplomacy tool. The analysis covers a two-year period (2020-2022) that coincides with the Covid-19 pandemic, a context that prompted the digitization of many sectors. The article contributes to the literature on Arab and Israeli digital diplomacy, as well as on digital diplomacy as practiced by embassies. Specifically, this exploratory analysis examines the webpages and published press notes of four countries’ embassies, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Morocco, and Qatar. These countries were chosen because they have the most robust websites in Spanish, together with the fact that they were the MENA countries whose governments pioneered the use of Twitter as an instrument of digital diplomacy. The article examines the topics and interpretations provided by the press notes published on these embassies’ websites. A discourse analysis methodology with references to the original sources is applied. Topics and interpretations are classified into four types of public diplomacy: media diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, niche diplomacy and nation branding. The conclusion is that the MENA countries studied neglect digital diplomacy on their websites in Spain, missing out on the opportunities it represents. The apparently four most digitized embassies in this group have errors on their webpages and often only publish messages from their respective foreign ministries, focusing on regional and internal issues rather than on their bilateral relationship with Spain. This is especially true of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
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