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Tunisia, Algeria: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011 and Algeria Protests 2011.

Protests in Algeria and Tunisia have captured the interest of bloggers in both countries. Social media seem to be playing a central role in the coverage of the unfolding events in a context of heavy censorship and strict restrictions imposed on traditional media (mostly state-run) and on the Internet. Here is an overview of what has been said in the local blogosphere in the last couple of days.

In Tunisia

As soon as news emerged about troops using live ammunition and firing at unarmed protesters, netizens started actively seeking information on the number of the dead. The conversation on Twitter and social networks was absorbed by conflicting figures about the number of the victims.

Unsurprisingly, the Tunisian state-run TV7 didn't seem to be concerned about the unfolding drama as Nawaat (@nawaat), the independent news website, writes:

La chaine nationale TV7 diffuse un concert de musique alors que la police tire à balles réelles sur les manifestants #sidibouzid

The national TV broadcaster is airing a music concert while the police fires live bullets at protesters #Sidibouzid

The Moorish Wanderer (@MoorishWanderer) from Morocco, voices his concern. He tweets:

Worrying if #ZABA (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) calls in the military. Any cases of mutiny in Army/Police? Cos otherwise, it's going to be a bloodbath #Sidibouzid

Nasser (@Weddady) from Mauritania has been following the events very closely. Citing news agencies and fellow tweeters on the ground he publishes the first names of the victims to emerge from the region of Kasserine where troops are believed to have been massively deployed:

Names of some killed tonight by #Tunisia regime: Marwane Jamli, Mohamed Oumari, Ahmed Boulabi Nouri Boulabi Abdelkader Boulabi #Sidibouzid

One blogger, Lina Ben Mhenni, visits the town of Regueb in the Sidi Bouzid Governorate where the riots started four weeks ago, when a young university graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, self-immolated in an act of desperation, after the police confiscated the stall he was using to sell fruits and vegetables. She describes what she saw:

Tonight , I went to Regueb after hearing about clashes between demonstrators and the police and the death of several people killed shot by the police. Today 5 people were killed : Manel Boallagui (26) and mother of two children , Raouf Kaddoussi (26) , Mohamed Jabli Ben Ali (19), Moadh Ben Amor Khlifi (20), Nizar Ben Ibrahim ( 22) . I can't write the details now!; I ‘ll do it later. I ‘ll let the pictures explain everything.

Lina posts a picture of one of the victims:

Nizar Ben Ibrahim Slimi, 22, killed during Sunday

Khanouff, whose blog is censored in Tunisia, deplores the lack of response from western governments [Fr] despite mounting victim figures:

[L]a comptabilité macabre continue, alors et si les chancelleries occidentales nous disent leur prix, nous renseignent sur le nombre de morts à atteindre pour lâcher leur protégé! Combien de morts pousseront-ils le Quai d’Orsay, et autres manipulateurs de marionnettes corrompus à agir? Dites nous svp combien de litres de sang vous faudra t-il ! Combien ! Combien de morts il vous faudrait messieurs les donneurs de leçons ?

The macabre account continues. Western governments, please tell us what is your price? What death toll should we reach before you withdraw your support from your protégé! How many deaths does the Quai d'Orsay, and other corrupt puppet manipulators need to act? Please tell us how many liters of blood do you need! How many! How many deaths do you need gentlemen?

fléna bent flén is a Tunisian blogger. She reflects on the events unfolding in her country and writes this short poem [Fr] (excerpt):

Je ne suis pas d’humeur à écrire
Mais je n’arrive pas à dormir
L’effet de la caféine ? Pire…

Je ne suis pas d’humeur à faire la rime
Mais c’est mieux que de faire le mime
Dénoncer un crime
Un parmi d’autre dans cet abîme..

Je ne suis pas d’humeur à pleurer
Mais je ne peu m’en empêcher,
On se fait encore tué..

I'm in no mood to write
But I can not sleep at night
The effect of caffeine? Worse …

I'm in no mood to make rhymes
But it's better than doing the mimes
I want to report a crime
One more in these troubled times ..

I'm in no mood to cry
But I just can't help
They want us killed .. They want us to die

The national flag as well as the anthem have proved to be effective rallying symbols for protesters. Bloggers have also been using the flag to make their points heard.

In a show of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their families, blogger bokOussama suggests the adoption on the blogosphere of a symbolic new flag [Fr]. He writes:

La couleur rouge, rouge comme le sang des martyrs qui a coulé hier à Gassrine et autres régions tunisiennes, ne reviendra point à ce drapeau que lorsque dignité et liberté ne soient rendus au Pays qui le représente.

The red color, red as the blood of the martyrs who fell yesterday in Kasserine and other regions of Tunisia. The red color will not return to this flag until dignity and freedom are returned to this country that deserves them.

Picture from vie d'ingénieur…vie de chien blog

Blogger Adel also refers to the national flag [Fr]. He writes:

Le drapeau de mon pays, rouge comme le sang de ceux qui ont reçu des balles dans le dos à Sidi Bouzid, rouge comme le sang des dizaines de jeunes qui sont tombés sous les balles à Kasserine, rouge comme le sang qui s’est mélangé au feu de ceux qui se sont fait immolé.

Le drapeau de mon pays pour ceux qui le croyaient mauve est … rouge

The flag of my country is red, like the blood of those who were shot in the back in Sidi Bouzid, red like the blood of dozens of young people who fell under the bullets in Kasserine, red like the blood that was mixed with the fire of those who set themselves ablaze.

The flag of my country, for those who believe it was purple, is actually red …

Purple refers to the color of the ruling party RCD.

Blogger Insàane writes in colloquial poetry this text [Ar] which seems to echo the spirit of the protests:

أنا سيدي بو زيد و سيدي بوزيد أنا، نتكلم نتكلم و نزيد ، البارح أنا جبان و اليوم الحق فينا بان ، اليوم حرية ، موش على كيفكم ، على كيف نفسي الهشة ، على كيف التوانسة و الجمهورية ، على كيف كل ولية بكات ، على جاليتنا إلي تنفات ، على قدرنا إلي تستخايلوه مات . في تونس ما يستحق الحياة ، و بكل حزم ، نقوموا مالردم يزيونا قهر ، يزيونا سكات !!!!
I am Sidibouzid and Sidibouzid is me. I may have been a coward yesterday but today I call for justice and freedom. Today you're no more in charge and I'm not afraid. Today it's the people, the republic, the crying mother, the expatriates… We are in charge. We control our own fate. No more oppression, no more silence.

Finally Slim points out at the important role played so far by social and new media [Fr], in keeping open the flow of information filtering out of the country. He writes:

Le black-out médiatique, la désinformation et la censure continuent à montrer leurs limites. On n’a jamais été aussi bien renseigné sur ce qui se passe. Le partage viral et instantané des photos, vidéos et témoignages des manifestants sur Facebook et twitter a été intensif depuis le début du mouvement. La frontière entre le réel et le virtuel n’a jamais été aussi étroite

The media blackout, disinformation and censorship continue to show their limitations. We have never been so well informed about what is happening. Instant and viral sharing of photos, videos and witness accounts from protesters on Facebook and Twitter has been intense since the beginning of the movement. The border between the real and virtual worlds has never been so tight.

In Algeria:

Many have been quick to characterize the riots in Algerian cities as a mere propagation of the Tunisian protests.

Kal writing on the Moor Next Door plays down this supposed association. He writes:

That they have occurred so close to each other is probably more circumstantial — the Algerian riots are the result of poor policies and market troubles that happened to occur at the same time the Tunisian uprising has. But there is some inter-textuality between them in that Algerians have made appeals of solidarity with the Tunisians even if the bulk of what is happening in Algeria seems idiosyncratic.

Algerian vlogger Hchicha speaks about the malaise [Algerian dialect] that prompted the Algerian riots and draws parallels between the situation in Tunisia and Algeria, a country that, he says, has been pushed to the brink of implosion:

Algerians have had enough. This is a question of Hogra, dignity. Beware of the government propaganda that claims that the riots are merely about high prices of bread etc. In fact Algeria suffers from serious problems. Real political problems. It's a political crisis that has lasted for 20 years; since 1962.

A point of view shared by Nawel D. on Algeria 360° [Fr]. She writes:

Les émeutes sont porteuses […] d’un message politique fort : le besoin de liberté. Besoin d’ouverture du champ politique bouclé à l’émeri à cause d’un état d’urgence qui n’a d’utilité que pour empêcher l’expression des voix qui ne rime pas avec l’unanimisme ambiant. Les quatre jours d’émeutes sont un appel à une rupture dans le mode de gouvernance. Le message est clair.

The riots are carrying a strong political message: the need for freedom. The need for openness of a political life, deadlocked because of a state of emergency that has no meaning other than to prevent the expression of voices that sing outside of the choir. The four days of riots are a wake up call for a rupture with a certain mode of governance. And the message is clear.

The blog Mots de Tête d’Algérie reports on the aftermath of riots in Amizour [Fr], a town in northern Algeria. He says the protests went out of control:

Des dégradations qui ont suscité l'indignation de la population qui ne comprend pas pourquoi s'en prendre à des biens de la collectivité et d'utilité publique. « On a voulu exprimer notre ras-le-bol sans commettre de dépassements », explique un jeune manifestant, « mais des éléments avec d'autres intentions, pour tout simplement voler se sont joints aux manifestants, c'est devenu incontrôlable !» regrette-t-il.

Degradations have aroused the indignation of the population. People do not understand why some protesters went after infrastructures and utilities shared by the community. “We wanted to express our exasperation without committing any excesses,” said one young protester adding “others, with the intention to steal, joined the protesters, and the situation became uncontrollable!”

Whether the Algerian riots are the reflection of a deeper malaise or only the expression of a temporary upset is a central question Kal of the Moor Next Door reflects on in this post. He writes:

A revolution is a rather particular, and frequently deliberate, thing. Whether these uprisings constitute something more than a temporary upset will be discovered later, as will whatever manipulation carries or dampens the hopes of the young men in the street.

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011 and Algeria Protests 2011.

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