Egypt – new media and politics

1. Graffiti

Using the graffiti is an Egyptian tradition since the pharos; yet it faded away and this new generation brought it back to life with a political content. During the revolution protestors and artists were documenting the main events of the revolution and the martyrs. Graffiti has always been a highly controversial form of art; it became a type of war paint in the fight against the regime.

Since the burst of the revolution graffiti was used as a tool to criticize the regime, spread awareness on the revolution and its development. As shown in annex (2) the walls of Cairo in general and the Tahrir square in particular turned to be a big canvas where the people expressed their demands and views on the regime. Exposing the governmental violence and repression through the graffiti acted as a catalyst that mobilized more people.

The graffiti had a distinctive role in spreading the awareness, information and the demands among the population. The portraits and images played an essential role in informing different categories including illiterates and young youth, furthermore it was fulfilling a main role which is commemorating violence and martyrs.

The second purpose of the graffiti was organizing and collaborating the masses to work together. Drawing graffiti and using the stencils required high degree of organization and cooperation which brought together different categories of protesters. Among these was the formulation of “The Revolution Artists’ Union” which was founded by a diverse group of writers, poets, photographers, singers, filmmakers, painters and many more on Tahrir Square.

The graffiti was used to channel the feelings of the protestors and to reflect the spirit of the revolution, it included phrases like ‘I Love my Country’ made into the shape of a heart, others included posters of Khalid Said on the first anniversary of his death, the image of a tank facing down a bread seller on his bike, which was painted by a large group of artists. Another was an image of Nefertiti- an Egyptian pharos queen- wearing a tear gas mask; With the developments of the events and as the graffiti proved to be very effective, artists started to create stencils that they used in different area to spread the same images. An example of these was the different martyrs portraits and famous quotes like “Leave” and the famous April 6 movement fist. In this way, the young graffiti and street artists helped other young Egyptians to find their voices and provided a means for them to express their opinions and hopes for the future .

The use of graffiti aided in the mobilization of masses as it served as a space for free expression and enhancing involvement. The artistic protest movements have also allowed people who had never previously taken part in the political process to have their voices heard. It is worth mentioning that a noticeable sector of the Egyptian society cannot read or write, the creation of graffiti facilitated keeping them updated with the events and informed them through these simple drawings. Some artists also referred to having conversations with people who could not read or write, people whose opinions are otherwise far less likely to be heard, and creating works based on these discussions.

Furthermore, these graffiti was used to inform the international community about the revolution, those who aren’t aware of the language or the events can understand the happenings from these graffiti. In the course of the revolution two famous name- Kaizer and Ganzeer- emerged as the revolution\’s graffiti artists who deliver creative canvases. For instance Ganzeer´s “Mask of freedom”, fulfilled its purpose and even granted him invitations all over Europe; While Kaizer´s graffiti of Snow White carrying a gun, shows that these young artists were aware of the Western culture and were trying to gain support through their art.

2. Songs and Poems

Poetry and songs have a very distinctive social position to the Middle East and especially the Egyptians, artists, actors and singers had their share during the revolution; they were inspiring protests and elevating the sense of patriotism. Music and street performance were at the heart of the protests, the tents and stages built at the square ignited by the different songs and street theater plays.

During the first days of the revolution protesters were using folklore songs and poems that were used in the near history and in the fight against colonization especially Ahmed Fouad Negm poems who was known as the “poet of the people”. Both protesters and artists were performing together nationalistic songs to raise the revolutionary spirit. Sayed Darwish, Sheikh Imam and Abdel Halim Hafiz songs filled the square, protesters were trying to convey to the masses that they are not traitors and they have a high sense of belonging and patriotism; with the spread of the revolution\’s slogans and chants people started to sing it.

Songs and street performance served the same purpose of informing the masses about the demands of the protestors, motivating them to join the protests, and to document the revolution as shown in annex (3). The spirit that spread all over the country resulted in a substantial repertoire of songs that are considered the protest songs.

The development of events can be tracked through the songs that developed; starting with the old songs that brought back all the patriotism feelings and got the people out of their apathy and indifference, to songs such as “Kan Insan” (He was a Human Being) and “Mubarak” that came out by famous singers to support Mubarak before he stepped down; to the songs that were addressed to the martyrs like the new “Beladi Beladi” ( The national anthem song) that was modified to be as if one of the martyrs is delivering a message to the protestors to continue the revolution and regain freedom and justice to the country, another song was “Folan el-Folany” (Anonymous), which became very popular. With the release of the protests chants and slogans artists in the square started to compose songs from such slogans such as the famous Later on the artists in the square “Irhal” (Leave), “Howwa Yemshi, Mish Hanimshi” (He Must Go, We Will Not Leave), “Al-Sha‘b Yureed Isqat al-Nizam” (The People Want to Bring Down the Regime), and “Ya Ma‘shar el Thuwwar” (Ye Tribe of Revolutionaries) among others hundreds of thousands of protesters sang them. Furthermore, the square witnessed several street theater plays that was reciting the events of the revolution; among these was the “Tahrir Square Jam” that was played by El Mastaba Centre for Egyptian Folk Music to reflected their dissatisfaction and detest to the current regime. With the increased mobilization famous singers released their own revolutionary songs like Mohammed Mounir, Ramy Sabry, Hamza Namira Iskandarella and others, their songs spread in the square and people kept on chanting them all the time. Many different forms of artistic protest movement have taken part during the revolution, from rap music to street theatre to poetry, and they have each played a role in influencing it, often in collaboration with each other at cultural festivals, such as the Al-Fann Midan (‘Art is a Square’) festival in Cairo.

The square witnessed the birth of new singers and artists who came up with songs and street theater that criticize the regime, call for the change and motivate more participants to join in, among these were underground musicians like Ramy Essam who became a popular icon and was dubbed “Singer of the Revolution.”, it also witnessed a very artistic revolutionary spirit which articulated in the form vibrant art scenes, graffiti, paintings, music carnivals and street theater, most of these activities were taped and displayed over the internet, especially YouTube to document the revolution, keep the masses posted about the course of action, demands and peacefulness of the protestors also it motivated more people to join in.

Analyzing the songs and chants that arise in the course of the revolution shows a link between the old generation and the new one, the new generation of artists reinforced historical continuity of the old struggles of the country and it gave confidence to the older generations that the youth are following the same path in liberating the country and bringing back its dignity and freedom. It also shows that the generation that have always been described as apathetic and alienated is actually aware of the past and of the international experiences as well.

The protesters knew the importance of art and it was utilized as a tool for creating a sense of political unity, giving voice to political aspirations and excoriating governments and leaders. Moreover, the songs that emerged enhanced the peoples\’ power by providing them with confidence in their struggle; the new revolutionary songs are technically more innovative and progressive in the way that they reach out to the public, hence transgressing social barriers such as those of class, age, and gender. The songs were being created during the ongoing events, hence commenting on, documenting, and defining the revolution itself.

Finally, The new glocal culture had its influence on the society, it produced new practices among them occupying the public space and utilizing the mass mobilization to create regime change. This new culture and the occupation movements resulted in creating a commonly accepted political discourse encompassing diverse religious views, political ideologies and even social classes. Such discourse emphasizes on the urge of creating a new civil state in Egypt responding to the globalization effects and the new societal demands.

The conclusion to be drawn is that successful politically driven social movements must be based on grassroots organization that starts in the streets with the direct contact with the masses and to represent them. The previous analysis focused on how the organizers mobilized the people, the protests activities, occupying the streets and how influential were their tools in leading to the revolution\’s success. Even though it lacked leadership and unified plan, the different courses of action were unified by the common logos and slogans. There were many influential actors all were working together to achieve the protests success yet there were no principal figure or vanguard that took the lead, The emphasis on neglecting the differences and calling for the very basic demands that is needed by the majority of the society was among the important reasons in the success of the mobilization process

CHAPTER FIVE

THE REVOLUTIONIZING IMPACT OF NEW MEDIA

From the Boston Massacre of March 1770 and the storming of the Bastille in Paris in July 1789, to the streets of Cairo in January 2011 it is evident that successful revolutions are born in the streets; what was really impressive about the Egyptian model is the speed of toppling down the regime, observers and commentators were shocked from toppling down the regime in only 18 days. Here manifests the effect of the new media, and more specifically the social media, that emerged as a common global public sphere invading any regime boundaries. Social networks as a revolution\’s tool started to take place with the end of the Colored Revolutions, yet it came to surface with the 2009 Moldova Civil unrest, The first to be dubbed twitter revolution.

The internet was first introduced to the public in Egypt in 1995, yet it gained popularity with the government technological initiative launched in 2002 that made it free. This paralleled with relatively affordable mobile service prices due to the competition between the three operators Vodafone, Mobinil, and Etisalat which resulted in a widespread use of mobile telephones, Smartphones, or camera mobile telephones. In fact, social media applications are more accessed through Smartphones (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android) and other hand-carried devices, such as an iPad. Yet it wasn\’t until 2004 when the cyber-activism started surfacing, it was complementary to the emerging opposition movements, it enabled the users to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and access the information they want. It restructured the role of the citizen and the way of dealing with the information flow.

Social media is not only delivering the information or news to the audience, compared to the traditional mass media, but it is interactive tool that allows the receiver to respond instantly to the information, also it generates a platform for discussion and exchange of views. All this is provided with the option of being disguised or not and to choose the medium you are present at. This cyber-activism was concurrent with the foundation of independent newspapers like AlMasry Al-Youm and Al Dustor, along with the growth of Internet and mobile technologies at a relatively low cost , all resulted in a more vibrant and open climate for freedom of expression and an uncontrollable flow of information that created a new category of “online citizenry” or “netizens” a category of young, politically aware citizens, who are technology-savvy, open to the international experiences and have a new promising vision for the future of their country.

By the end of December 2010, about 22 per cent of the population enjoyed Internet access and more than 80 per cent owned cell phones, social media were used to spread advice on how to react, what to do if placed under arrest or attacked with tear gas. Information about how to use proxies to try to overcome Internet restrictions was quickly spread through the different networks. Information snowballed via Facebook and Twitter as information was spread not only from person to person but from one network to another’s, with people within each network forwarding to their networks, and so on.

With the increased influence of the social media the regime started blocking the most influential channels, they started blocking Twitter, then Facebook, as well as disrupting mobile phone text-messaging and Blackberry-messaging services. Then, on Thursday 27 January, the regime managed to shut down the Internet and cut the mobile service in the whole country for six days causing $90 million in losses as estimated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) . Despite the tremendous loss, the regime thought it is the only way to contain the movement and regain its control over the people. Such action was a replication to what happened in Iran and Tunisia, yet it didn\’t prove to be influential. On the contrary the international community despised this and started to show concern about what is going on in Egypt. Despite the fact that the Internet blackout lasted for six days, during which the country was totally isolated from the virtual world, protest organizers were able to bring out larger crowds than ever using flyers and leaflets, word of mouth, and mosques as centers for congregation

Albeit the main stimulus was to the new media, the traditional one had its share. The slight space for freedom of expression that accompanied the expansion of free press and independent media had its role in influencing the political arena. Yet the mistrust in the official media minimized such role. It wasn\’t until the internet blackout when traditional media took back the lead; Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the two most prominent 24-hour news channels in the region, played a major role especially as of January 28 , with the internet blockade, the regime\’s media satellite channels; Nile News TV and Al-Masreya, were just delivering the regime\’s message, trying to contain the protests and preventing the masses from joining by broadcasting rumors of looting, violence and conveying bad image about the protestors. Yet these two channels with the 24 hours stream and the live reporters from the square or by streaming phone calls with the protestors were transmitting the situation more clearly and this helped to maintain the momentum of the protests.

As a matter of fact the social media didn\’t cause the revolution, however it played a major role in accelerating it through organizing the protestors, it acted as a mean of communication among the protestors, in the same time it spread their image to the external world and stimulated the international support. Quoting an activist,

“We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” This statement sums up the use of social media in the protest.

The nature of each social media website differs than the other which resulted in different function to each of them. However, there are common features among them in providing prompt communication and interaction, real time diffusion of information, free access to information, speedy reaction to events, low cost, ability to self-publish, and above all freedom of expression and the ability to discuss the most sensitive issues. The following illustrates the role of the most influential social media tools that were used in the course of the revolution.

I. Facebook

Among other names the Egyptian revolution was dubbed ” Facebook revolution” and “Twitter revolution” to indicate their influence on the revolution. Facebook is the most famous social network website, it was launched in February 2004 as an exclusive website for Harvard students. It continued to grow rapidly till it reached more than 600
million
active
users by January
2011 and increased roughly to 800 million active users, as of November, 2011. A study of protesters in Tahrir Square found that 28.3% first heard about the demonstrations on Facebook—the second most common source of information, after face-to-face communication, through which 48.4% of protesters became aware of the mobilizations . In all, 52% of protesters had a Facebook profile, and almost every one of them used it to communicate about the demonstrations.

The service gained such prominence as it provided a trusted environment that facilitates continuous communication among different groups with ease of access. Through their accounts people can interact with their friends or with groups they are interested in. It is significant to note that more than 350 million Facebook users access their accounts via mobile phones, a crucial aspect to the role played by social media during the Revolution. As of January 2011, around 4.5 per cent of Egyptians were registered Facebook users, increasing to about 7.7 per cent by April 2011, an increase of almost 2 million Egyptians, their growth is the highest in the Arab region. The largest percentage of Egyptian Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old (41%). “Although Egypt\’s Interior Ministry [under Mubarak] maintain[ed] a department of 45 people to monitor Facebook, nearly 5 million- 7 per cent – Egyptians kept on using it. .

Political activism started taking place over Facebook in 2005 as a response to the political surge that the Egyptian street witnessed at that time, activists started expressing their political views over the internet due to the repression imposed on the political field, few known names were circulating in the different- limited – political acts. Esraa Abdel Fattah was among these names; she was a volunteer in El Ghad opposition party yet she found that Facebook allows better access to more people and better instant communication, hence she called for the first organized event through Facebook was on the opening of a movie about Police corruption “Heya Fawda” or “This Is Chaos” 100 people were gathered through Facebook around the movie opening. Although the numbers were limited nonetheless it was considered a real success to the idea of mobilizing through the web.

With the developments in the political activism and as a response to the successive grassroots stands and strikes Esraa proposed the idea of creating a Facebook group to brainstorm and gather different ideas on how to support them. It is worth mentioning that she was working closely with Ahmed Maher a famous activist and blogger will be mentioned later. On 23 March 2008 Maher and Esraa created a Facebook group in solidarity with Mahalla workers strike, they named it “April 6 Movement”, reference to the strike day, it started by inviting 300 people to join them and the group succeeded in attracting massive support in a short time till it reached 76000 member in few weeks. In the immediate aftermath of this call the Facebook group surpassed the virtual boarders and formed “April 6” movement, it included activists and bloggers belonging to several ideological schools, thus exemplifying the same spirit that existed in “Kefaya” yet they learned from their pitfalls and were able to develop speech and techniques that made the masses more responsive to them. Egypt continued to witness workers\’ protests over the course of 2009 and 2010 and they became the most famous opposition symbol. In a trial to contain their act Esraa was arrested and jailed for two weeks during which all the followers and supporters were calling for her release. The group\’s activity continued, it was the most dynamic group including most of the debates, views, videos, strikes reports, alerts about police activity and legal protection support, it was a platform that gathered people, especially youth, from different social and political backgrounds and provided them with a masquerading platform not only to express their views but also to actually participate in the political life; it continued on growing till it reached 325,000 member in March 2012.

In 2010 appeared another influential group “The National Association For Change” it was created to support El Baradie who returned to Egypt and was trying to mobilize the masses to call for free and fair elections and to actually achieve change in the country. Although this group was able to rally a lot of youth around them yet they didn\’t prove to be as significant as the other groups. Even though very prominent figures joined this group and they planned meetings and activities inside and outside Egypt , Kuwait, England and United States, yet their influence was limited.

It wasn’t until June 2010, when Facebook made another appearance on the scene of Egyptian political activism with the creation of the most influential Facebook group among all was ” We Are All Khalid Said” – Arabic and English groups- that was created by Wael Ghonim in the aftermath of Said\’s death. upon its creation the group attracted a lot of members from different social, demographic and political orientations all were sympathizing with the young man that was brutally tortured and killed, the group had over 190,000 members, by 3 August, it reached 250,000 members . The activity of the group started by posting Said’s
battered
body in
the
morgue
and
YouTube
videos
contrasting pictures
of
a
healthy
Said
with
the
morgue
images and with the increasing numbers the group became a platform for online discussion and dialogue of shared grievances against Mubarak\’s regime. The group was very influential internally and succeeded in gaining the international recognition as well as only a month after Said\’s death and the creation of the group the New York Times carried a story on the fledgling movement, reporting its activity and wide influence.

Reference to Ghonim, the main purpose of the group was to convince the people to take their opposition from the internet to the real world and this was implemented through the several calls for stands and marches commemorating Said and against the police, a lot of members joined such stands and despite the relatively small numbers, the cause proliferated quickly through Facebook and that was proved in the increased participation in July\’s silent protest. the group\’s activity was increasing day by day with the surge of public opposition, along with the burst of the Tunisian protests that sparked the Egyptian activists, the first calls for the revolution went through this page, calling for mass protests in the National Police Day on January 25 as a “Day of Rage” Hundreds of thousands of protestors flooded the streets to show their discontent with corruption, economic and sociopolitical conditions in the country. As the protests continued, more people in Egypt turned to Facebook to see videos, pictures, make comments, and discuss the political revolution for democracy, freedom of speech, and socio-economic change.

“We Are All Khaled Said” and “April 6 Youth” Facebook groups were working in parallel to organize, mobilize and inform about the protests. The former announced that their main aim is not bringing down the regime yet it is really bringing change to the country and forcing the regime to listen to the demands of the masses. They spoke about general demands that was there is all the marches and strikes since 2005 as ending the emergency law, enforcing the law equally among all the masses and to achieve better socio-economic conditions. While the later focused on innovating new strategies that would keep the masses ignited and interested in the political action. They kept on posting the national song on their website, posted photos of the different protests and marches that happened since 2003 accompanied by captions like “We can, Yes we can” and “With hope and honesty, we can” . On January 17th “April 6 Youth” announced that Egyptians abroad will have a parallel protests on January 25th in solidarity with their home country, all the replies and responses were very positive and showed confidence in the success of the plan. While “Khaled Said” campaigned for engaging the celebrities in the protests, they asked the members to set the protests plan as their profile picture so as to spread faster. In the few days prior to the revolution both groups were posting information on meeting points including time and location with instructions on the action plan. This wasn\’t only in Cairo but the plan was set for the whole country. On the day before the revolution “April 6” group posted contacts numbers in ten governorates to provide information and support those who want to join, meanwhile “Khaled Said” group provided phone numbers of lawyers affiliated with the ‘Front of Defending Demonstrators,’ although it stressed that participants must remain peaceful and resist police provocation. Both groups emphasized on unity, peacefulness and avoiding any provocative religious or political slogans.

As the protests began both groups were reporting the developments of events, their posts were celebrating the masses responding to the calls and inviting more to join. “April 6” group admin posted “I write to you from the streets of Cairo. Tens of thousands are chanting for Egypt. This is the biggest march in the history of the country. We have surrounded the security forces twice and broken their cordons. This is the most beautiful day of my life” . The day ended with demands to continue the action and actual calls for more protests on January 26th. With the successful mobilization the calls elevated demanding the masses to stay in the streets till Mubarak resigns. It was the first actual calls to topple down the regime. And by January 27th the group kept on posting pictures and videos of the protests across the country noting the inability of the police to contain the act, also that day was the articulation of “Toppling down the regime”. The day after was the internet blackout yet there were slight activity on both pages by those who managed to use proxies or were outside Egypt. Both pages had real influence on informing the masses, despite the similarities between them they had different perspectives; “Khaled Said” focused on peaceful internet mobilization, while “April 6”, due to their field experience, were more political, had more innovative tool and were more bold in their speech, they warned the police from the tragic consequences in case they used violence. Finally, whereas Khalid Said’s page sought to raise hope of the possibility of change, the April Movement sought to create and enhance confidence in the possibility and imminence of change.

There were several other pages that had less significant share such as “Rasd News Network-RNN”” and “Akher khabar” among others, they were mainly pages to bypass the news in a traditional mode and they were mostly copied from Twitter. However they became like a broadcasting channel over Facebook providing the masses with times and locations of the protests, as well as warnings and instructions on how to defend themselves if approached by the regime’s hired thugs and/or the security forces. RNN captured over 400,000 viewers, which was one of the reasons that led the regime to ban access to social networking sites. Furthermore, upon the start of the revolution, multiple Facebook pages were created to include Egyptians abroad, including “Voice of Egypt Abroad,” “Egyptians Abroad in Support of Egypt,” and “New United Arab States.” Other social media initiatives included a series of virtual protests in support of the Egyptian protests, like the Facebook-organized February 1 event inviting users to a virtual “March of Millions” in solidarity with Egyptian protesters. Administrators of the event explained on the page: “As one million march on the streets of Egypt, our goal is to reach one million voices in support of their march”

To recap, the regime\’s repression paralleled with the anonymity provided by Facebook were the main reasons behind creating these groups, nevertheless, they were really influential in creating a new public space away from the regime, that allowed the masses to participate in the political life. Facebook started as a tool advocating for certain causes, then information dissemination and discussion platform, till it became a mobilization and organization tool that proved to be very influential in building up the revolution.

II. Twitter

The second most influential website was Twitter, it played a major role in updating the people about the course of action and provided all the needed updates for the protestors and non-participating followers as well. Twitter was launched in 2006 by much of the same team that created the popular blogging service “Blogger”. As a “real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting.” it is a very personal site that allow you to follow the news and updates of whatever you are interested in and respond it to immediately; Users communicate via “Tweets” which are short posts limited to 140 characters, also allowing for embedded media links. Additionally, tweets can be categorized using “hash tags” which “group posts together by topic or type.” The fact that the tweets are limited in size, and enable the user to instantaneously send the message to thousands of users made it much more responsive than Facebook and SMS.

To the Egyptians, Twitter is considered less popular than Facebook, it had only around 130,000 members against Facebook’s 7 million users in May 2011. Despite this fact it played a major role in the course of the revolution as it allowed instant communication and information delivery, furthermore the ease of access via computer or cell phone increased the number of users. Statistics estimated that Twitter users generated an average of 24,000 tweets a day during January to March 2011. One user in Cairo generated 60,000 words alone during the 18-day revolution, a total of 1,500 tweets. As shown in annex (4) Tweets about the revolution spread widely in that period achieving the most popular hash tag in the Arab Region as #Egypt (1.4 million mentions) and #jan25 (1.2 million mentions). while Cairo and Egypt were the two most-referenced city and country and Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was the most-discussed world news event.

In the course of the revolution Twitter played multiple roles; it was used as a mobilization tool, participatory journalism tool through enabling continuous connectivity that made of the activists reporters once on the ground, furthermore it was an organizational tool, an important news-bearing medium, a site of global information flow and above all a communication channel to the external world. In brief, Twitter can be viewed as a megaphone broadcasting information about the uprising to the outside world in the same time an internal informational and organizing tool.

Given the leaderless nature of the protests, Twitter\’s organizational role was very crucial, it circumnavigated the chain of commands, due to the ease of access through the cell phones protestors were able to send updates on their location and where they needed the masses to go, For example, on 26 January, Twitter user “Monasosh” tweeted, “Right now in front of my eyes, tear gas, they beat protesters and arrested some.” On 29 January “Gigi Ibrahim” tweeted “Egyptian State-owned media is showing nothing from what’s really happening and trying to minimize it…” the tweets sent by the well-known blogger “Mahmoud Salem”, sent on 11 February, provides another example: ‘Need more protesters on the Salah Salem side. There are only 1000 there with thousands on the Roxy side. Pl retweet #jan25’ it was very influential in acknowledging the protestors about the updates of the protests and enabled instant responds to any emergency or threat especially through the “Retweet” option which allows spreading the information among different networks.

Domestically Twitter was used by the protestors to inform the masses about the updates of the protests, the happenings in the square especially during the first days of the protests when the regime was trying to contain the protests by defaming the protestors. Twitter was used at that time to spread the actual information including voice notes and images of the protestors which aided in defying the regimes\’ falsified claims. Furthermore it played a pivotal role in equipping the square with the most needed tools through launching initiatives and hash tags informing the people about what is needed; the most notable among these were “#Tahrir Supplies” which was used to collect the needed supplies for the square such as blankets, tents, food and phone chargers among others. Also the hash tag “#Tahrir Doctors” which had a very noble purpose of informing the masses about the names of the injured and to get to identify the anonymous ones, furthermore it was used to inform the masses about the medical emergencies in the square, to collect the needed medical supplied for the field mobile hospitals such as cotton, eye drops for the tear gas, syringes and different medicines, needless to mention it was used to facilitate communication among the protestors to help saving their lives. Both hash tags played an effective role in developing the logistics network of the square, broadcasting emergency alerts and informing the masses about the dangerous zones in the square. This technique spread to the different protests across the country not only Tahrir square, “#Suez” and “# ElArbaeen” were disseminating the news from Suez, informing the protestors where to be located and disseminating the news of the brave protestors to the rest of the country. others like “#Alex” and “#Elqaed Ibrahim” were responsible for those in Alexandria . Several other hash tags were created all working to serve the same purpose including “#tahrir”, “#amneldawla”, and” #elbardie”, they all enabled protesters in a leaderless movement to unite, organize, and speak to the world and each other.

Inspired by the influence of these hash tags one of the activists – “Soraya Bahgat”- came up with the hash tag “# Tahrir Bodyguard” which aimed at combating the mob sexual assaults in response to the shocking stories dispersed by the regime. The hash tag widely spread among the masses and it was later used to recruit protestors to keep the safety of the square against any assaults not just the sexual ones. Such cause was strengthened with the retreat of the police forces from the streets and the emerging need for protection against the thugs and muggers, the tool proved to be influential that is why it was spread through the retweets by international supports just to help the protestors while in the squares.

On the external level Twitter also played a key role either in educating the protestors about the tactics of fighting the regime or in broadcasting the incidents of the revolution to the international community. Acknowledging the Tunisian Revolution as a main aspiration, the Tunisian protestors educated the Egyptian ones how to deal with the police forces, tear gas, organizing the masses and so forth. While the official media didn\’t provide full coverage to the development of events in Tunisia, Egyptian activists were updated about these developments and the tools of fighting the regime through the hash tags “#tunisia” and “#sidibouzid”, this gave more confidence to the protestors on their movement and their ability to topple down the regime. The protestors were trying to capture the international attention so as to gain more strength to the protests, they believed that “globalizing the movement and winning the international support will protect and sustain the uprising”. One of the tweets stated “Making our voices heard, making sure people outside Egypt are aware of what\’s going on is very important to us, especially with the recent cell lines and internet blackout […]” this was true, the world was watching the revolution closely and the movement was gaining support day by day.

Although the internet blackout was intended to contain the revolution yet such initiative positively impacted the protests, as the blockage was accompanied by international concerns raised by officials from different countries, Twitter informed the international community about the happenings of the protests and the violations they faced, it increased the supporters and the political activists around the world start showing solidarity with the revolution, for instance the Lebanese technology entrepreneur “Habib Haddad” collaborated with Google and Twitter and organized 1,000 translators to translate Arabic tweets into French, German, and English. Furthermore, there was a support initiative from the non-governmental entities such as the cooperation between Google and Twitter to offer “Speak2Tweet” service ” during the time of the internet blackout which enabled the users to tweet with the hash tag #Egypt via voicemail, the blackout also spurred new technology solutions, such as utilizing router/path diversity methods, IP proxy servers . During the crisis, news, video clips and images continue to spread around Twitter with the greatest urgency, these actions showed that activists and non-state actors were aware of the situation in Egypt, sympathizing with the protestors and in solidarity with them. Twitter\’s 2011 year-end reports showed that the hash tags “#Egypt” and “#Jan25” were the most used hash tags in this year among twitter users worldwide not just in the Arab region. Additionally, research findings suggest that 9 of 10 tweets relevant to the Egyptian uprising came from outside Egypt and that tweets were used mainly to disseminate information on especially significant events, such as Mubarak’s departure from office .

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/essays/media/egypt-new-media-politics/


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