On Friday, January 28, 2011 the ruling government of Egypt cut off access to internet and cell phone services to its 80 million inhabitants. That’s the equivalent of shutting down access to everyone in California, Texas, and Florida. Yet, despite this, individual voices among the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters are still being broadcast not only via traditional television news, but also via YouTube, personal blogs and Twitter feeds. Similar to the events that occurred in Thailand in 2010 and Iran in 2009, the “internet revolution” has transformed the 21st century civic revolution into a 24/7 newsfeed of insightful, real-time protester tidbits.
Videos, blogs, and tweets are the new call to arms — instead of picking up pens, protesters now wield phones. Want to glean a bit of what’s being written by Egyptians but don’t speak Arabic? No problem. Check out Meedan, a service we profiled in a previous blog that translates various news items from Arabic into English, along with translated reader comments. Another similar website is Alive In Egypt, which adds English subtitles to videos, and Arabic transcriptions along with English translations of Speak2Tweet audio files. Speak2Tweet, launched by Google when the Egyptian protests started, allows anyone to leave a voicemail that is then placed onto Twitter with an #egypt hashtag.
Meedan and Alive in Egypt are not as timely, however, as The New York Times blog The Lede, which features a daily synthesis of newsworththy entries from blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and established, mainstream news sources.
As with Thailand and Iran, Twitter has been very active in this historic event and there are Arabic, English and various other languages mashed up on a Twitter feed that collects all tweets about Egypt. Tweeters on the ground in Egypt include Sawizm, Wael Abbas, and Matthew Cassel
The English and Arabic e-zine Jadaliyya, produced by the Arab Studies Institute, gathers several translations (or translates the stories themselves) of statements from Egyptian institutions and protest groups, as well as offers informed analysis of the events themselves.
The news site that has gathered the most momentum and exposure due to the events in Tunisia and now Egypt has been the TV news station Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera English is having its CNN Gulf War moment. The TV station, rarely seen by the American public (no major American cable company has agreed to offer the channel to its subscribers), is presenting 24/7 news coverage of Egypt. The 24/7 coverage is on their English website as well. Its defenders along with its detractors, will continue their back-and-forth dialogue for years to come as this well-financed station out of Doha, Qatar seems here to stay and may just become part of the mainstream media in the U.S.