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Arab World: New Media and the Egyptian Demonstrations

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Breaking News, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Politics, Protest, Technology

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011 [1].

The Arab World is looking in awe at the developments unfolding in Egypt. Today, mainstream media is taking a back seat, while citizen media triumphs.

While new media plays an important role in shaping people's opinions, new means of communication play an important role on the ground where they also help in organizing the masses in protests and demonstrations. Arab bloggers here are discussing the role of all these means in the ongoing protests in Egypt, where thousands of people are taking to the streets to call of political and economic reforms.

Moroccan blogger Hisham wrote here about the role of media in the demonstrations in Egypt [2]. He focused how the new social media tools have been used in Egypt, like they have been used in Tunisia earlier this month.

Today, Egyptians responded to calls for a march against the 30-year rule of Husni Mubarak. People took to (and are still in) the streets of Cairo and main Egyptian cities, peacefully venting their anger against three decades of corruption and repression. Most of the protesters are young and have spent all their lives under Mubarak’s police state and emergency rules. Facebook and Twitter again have been instrumental in coordinating protesters’ efforts as small groups in their hundreds congregated in the streets and public squares of Cairo and Alexandria, to gradually form huge masses of tens of thousands calling for change.

Hisham made a reference to the Tunisian uprising that preceded the Egyptian one, and shed more light on the role of Twitter and Facebook there.

The role of the internet and social media in emboldening the Tunisian uprising that led to the first ever popular Arab revolution to topple an Arab dictator, was pivotal. I’m not saying it was a Twitter Revolution, I’m saying Twitter and social media were an effective weapon of mass dissemination. They were the catalyst that helped the movement reach the critical mass that swept through the country, from Sidi Bouzid all the way to the capital Tunis, and in no time.

In fact, social media tools aren't only used as a way for communication between the protesters. But many traditional media outlets in the region as well as outside the region are either ignoring the protests or giving them minimal and inappropriate coverage.

Jordanian blogger, Osama Romoh, who hated how the traditional media all over the region dealt with the events in Egypt, decided to help in spreading the news by sharing links of whatever related news he could get his hands on, on his own blog [3].

ما يحدث في مصر من مظاهرات تندد بالنظام الحاكم وتنتفض لسوء أحوال معيشة المصريين هو أكبر من أن يتم تلخيصه في بضع سطور لمقال أو وجهة نظر، ولأن الجهات الإعلامية ووسائلها تقلّل من شأن أحداث مصر في أخبارها ولا تغطي فعلاً ما يحدث هناك، قررت أنه من واجبي أن أفعل شيئاً ولم أجد في يدي إلا أن أساهم في نشر الكلمة وأن أنشر في هذه الصفحة روابطاً لأخبار من هنا وهناك تتعلق بمظاهرات مصر
The demonstrations taking place in Egypt against the regime there are too big to be summarized in few lines, an article or op-ed. And since traditional media is ignoring the events in Egypt, and is not covering what's going on there properly, I found myself obliged to respond and help in publishing here links for the news related to the Egyptian demonstrators from here and there and everywhere.

The Egyptian government also resorted to censoring the Internet in order to disable the people from using such social media tools [4]. However, Jordanian blogger, Roba Al-Assi, was still able to get the news from Egypt. She wrote here how new media has changed the way she, and many of her generation, consumes the news now [5].

For the second time this month, I sit on my bed with my tablet in the dark and refresh a hashtag consistently for hours.
Our habits of consuming media and news have changed. Of course, the fact that traditional media is shooting itself in the foot by not covering one of the biggest events to affect Arabs in the past 10 years seriously does not help.

She then continued.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Not politically, that is too early to tell. In terms of content consumption though, and I know I am not telling you anything new, it’s just fricking amazing.
Jan25: The Demonstrator [6]
Many users on twitter called this “the picture of the day [6]“.

Photo taken from the profile of @abanidrees on yfrog

And finally, Youssef wrote here about his anticipation for change in the whole region soon [7].

ورغم أنني من أكثر الناس تشاؤماً
من ألأوضاع العامة في المنطقة
وكنتُ دوما أقلهم تفاؤلاً
إلا أنني أكاد أُجزم
أنني أشتمُ رائحة تسونامي التغيّير
تهبُ على المنطقة بأكملها
أما ماهيّة التغيّير فمن الصعب التكهن به
وإن كنتُ أُخمنُ أنها تغيّيرات جذريّة
Although I'm one of the most pessimistic people.
I am the least optimistic when it comes to the situation in the region.
However, I have to tell you that I can feel the wind of change.
I feel it blowing on the whole region.
I might not be able to identify that change, but I guess it will be a major one.

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011 [1].