Reflection Paper 2

“Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observation from Tahrir Square”

This article was posted in 2012, only one year after the protests began in Tahrir Square. The article contains data and information about the media usage of the people attending the protests. A survey team got on the streets shortly after the protests to ask the participants how they used the media during the protests. The protests only lasted for 18 days and during these days media played a significant role in gathering people and spreading information. Despite a shutdown of the internet service between January 25 and February 2, media still was a main factor in spreading information. Though the survey shows that 48.4% of the attendants got informed about the protest by face-to-face communication, the media, such as Facebook and telephone, was also great sources to gain information about the protests taking place. 28.3% heard about the protests via Facebook and 13.1% via the telephone. These two media services are both interpersonal services, where you mostly talk to friends and family. Therefore, this is an extension of the face-to-face communication, which for the attendants must be the best and most safe way to gain information before and during the protests.
Facebook also serves as a non-political internet service, which is also, why this service can be a safer way to inform and be informed. As in the cute cat theory, non-political Facebook groups is less of a target for the government to shut down and therefore Facebook can be used to spread a political message hidden in a non-political group, page etc.
In this article it is also empathized how big a role the media played despite the fact that the Facebook revolution and the expand of smartphones only just came to Egypt in 2009. This was a big progress for the public sphere – bloggers began writing about political issues and social medias also became places where political messages emerged. The expansion of the new system not only promoted general communication but also political.
The emergence of the system also brought the so-called citizen journalists – those who broadcasted their own photos and videos and therefore became a civil journalist spreading information about the protest.
In the survey it is shown that nearly two third of the attendants were men, but that those who were women were more educated and more active on social media and had easier access to the internet. (via smartphones etc.) The survey also shows that less women participated in the protest on the first day but joined later on. These factors indicate that it might have been more dangerous for women to attend and that there was a certain insecurity about attending. This also amplifies that the protest could become violent and therefore some were afraid to attend.
As a conclusion, the survey shows that the media usage was very much linked to the participation in the protests at Tahrir Square. The availability of Facebook in Arabic in 2009 was a significant factor for the use of social media during the protest. It spread so fast and I think that and the fact that the completely new system came to Egypt made the movement possible. I think this article covers an important factor in the movement in Tahrir Square. It shows how big a role media actually played and that it might not have been possible to take Mubarak down so early if media had not been used as much as it did.

by Mette


“We did not risk our lives simply to change the players”

Reading the article ‘We did not risk our lives simply to change the players’ by Khaled Fahmy which has been published in july on the CNN website really elucidate how today’s government in Egypt is working. Fahmy sums up what has happend after Mubarak ousted as a president of Eqypt and Mohamed Morsy, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood has been fairly elected. By different examples he showed that Morsy as the new leader of Egypt broke the terms of the mandate. Especially by not changing the army and the police or securtiy sector was the turning point for Fahmy and he started to take part at protest that wants to undertake Mohamed Morsy and the so called Brotherhoodization. But for me, what mostly catched my attention, was the paragraph when he was talking about his driver’s cousin that has lost his life:

“Personally, the turning point came on April 24, 2013. On that day my driver’s cousin, Wael Hamdi Rushi, was killed in the Heliopolis Police Station. He had had a fight with a shop keeper who summoned the police. The police came and arrested Wael with his brother. In police custody, he objected to the way they were treating his 14-year old epileptic brother. So they smashed his head against the wall until he died, hanged his body from a rope in his prison cell and called his mother to watch him dangling from the ceiling. Wael was 19.”

This brutally exapmle clarifies that Morsy do not pay any attention to the security sector at all. In a country with freedom and dignity you should not suffer from those kind of examples and that were the main goals when Egypts’ people were fighting for a revolution. Fahmy describes this in a clear way by saying: “We wanted to change the rules of the game. That was the mandate we gave to Morsy. He has failed in this crucial task, so we no longer recognize him as a legitimate leader.” 

Even if you heard often of terrible actions by the police esepcially in middle eastern countries it still surprises me. Somehow I can not believe how those things can happen in a country where you were already protesting for a new government to come up but then nothing really changes. But also the phrase: “We did not launch this revolution nor risk our lives only to change the players.” opens up a necessary point. We were always talking about different protest and movements and how they succeed, how the protest proceeded, how the media was effected and what kind of people were invovled. But by starting a protest you never know how this is going to proceed. In most of the protest maybe even in every protest there are people who are dying because of the brutality that is involved in a protest. That’s a point you can not leave out and have to keep in mind. It would have been really interesting to read an article by someone who debate about this also. Asking yourself if you should take part in a movement by rsiking your own life and maybe nothing will be changed in the end?

by Mona


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