Egypt: When Citizen Media Did What Mainstream Media Wouldn't

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

This first part of a documentary on the Egyptian Revolution tells it from the perspective of blogger and viral video producer Aalam Wassef, focusing on how online video and other media accompanied a process of civilian unrest.

The documentary was produced by NarcoNews, a website reporting on the war on drugs and democracy in Latin America, who also hosted the School of Authentic Journalism back in May of this year, when the video was launched.

Although the focus was Latin America, Egypt seems to have been a main focus of this year's program: a session focused on the Egyptian revolution as told by key characters in the process, and also by the media who was at ground zero in Tahrir Square telling the story to the rest of the world.

The video is described as a manual on how a civil resistance was built to win, and follows the history of unrest in Egypt going back several years. Aalam Wassef tells his story of how he started posting videos under a pseudonym back in 2007 criticizing the government, and how they became viral.

But it wasn't just luck: Wassef, blogging under different assumed names, would also publish blog posts, get advertising spaces on Google's search engine and in short, ensure that whomever could get his message, would. And then, to go onto the “real” world, press.

Although he explains how his efforts were centered on raising Egyptians’ awareness, it was until BBC picked up one of his stories that he realized that 28 years after Hosni Mubarak's rise into power that the message was finally getting through and crossing borders, reaching far beyond the 10% of the Egyptian population with Internet access. The video is also available in Spanish.

After other successful viral campaigns, they found themselves going to a revolution along thousands of fellow Egyptians with one common goal: ending the regime. This next video, sent out 20 days before the revolution started might have been the pebble that started the landslide. At the end of it there's a brief message telling everyone to take their friends, head out to the streets and yell Down with Mubarak and on January 25, 2011, they did.

The work of Egyptians who wish to rebuild their country is far from done: they continue their efforts from their blogs, media and on the streets. Aalam Wassef does the same from his different websites: two YouTube accounts, a blog and his online artist porfolio. As Wassef concludes in the documentary:

Democracy is not something you get, it is something you aim at because you never get 100% democracy… each one has to wake up in the morning thinking that this revolution depends on him or her. This is how it works, this is what makes a revolution succeed. If each one of us has the impression that if he or she doesn't do something about it, that it's gone. And I do wake up with this feeling every morning.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

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