What really happened in Egypt on Friday?
Egyptians rally outside Cairo's Press Syndicate, bearing signs saying "Egypt is not for Sale" (AFP / Mohamed el-Shahed)
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The streets of Egypt are boiling again. On Friday, thousands of people joined demonstrations in both Cairo and Alexandria which were dispersed by security forces with tear gas.
The demonstrations were in protest against the sale of two islands to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, but many of those that took to the streets told agencies they were objecting to the general state of the country. Chants demanding the fall of the regime – the iconic slogan used in the historic 2011 protests that toppled Mubarak – were heard.
The protests highlight growing resentment to the rule of General Sisi, who has been in power since 2013 and has since engaged in a widespread crackdown against opposition groups.
They’re the largest in more than a year, and activists have called for further protests – and even a return to action of the scale and purpose of 2011.
It's over downtown for today. Safe passage negotiated with army. People on the move with promise to return on the 25th. #Egyrevolution— Ahdaf Soueif (@asoueif) 15 April 2016
Yet according to state-owned newspapers, the protests barely made a peep.
Al Ahram, the most widely circulated newspaper in the country, only ran a small story on its inside page, reporting that security forces had stopped the riots. It also featured a pro-government demonstration that had happened on the same day. Another state-owned paper, Akhbar Al Youm, reported that government forces had dispersed a small protest.
Televsion coverage was also sparse, and Democracy Index described the lack of recognition as a 'media blackout'.
Pro-regime twitterers also denied the protests were significant, and circulated cartoons mocking their scale.
— N.H (@RT_NSR_) 17 April 2016
A big failure of "Day of the Land", as created by the Muslim Brotherhood!
Reporter: So where are all the protesters you were talking about?
Protester: They're here – but only believers can see them.
The absence of mainstream coverage wasn’t missed by most twitterers, who pointed out that social media was leading the reporting where mainstream news seemed to fail. Some implied that the regime – and the rising opposition to it – was being covered up by media.
شبكات التواصل هي مفاجأة الجميع قامت بالتغطية البارزة اليوم برغم غياب تغطية قنوات رئيسية فقد شدت إنتباه الجميع داخليا وعالميا #جمعة_الأرض— Azza El-Garf (@AzzaElGarf) 15 April 2016
Social media platforms are the surprise of the day. They did all the major coverage though main media channels were missing. They got people's attention inside and outside the country. #Friday_of_the_land
This is the Egyptian media
Others directed the world to Twitter for news, or praised the protesters:
Today marks the largest non-islamist anti-regime protests in the history of Egypt's current regime (since 2013). See #جمعه_الارض for more.— Schams El Ghoneimi (@SchamsEU) 15 April 2016
الناس اللى نزلت انهاردة ناس عارفه كويس انهم هيتمسكوا او هيموتوا، وانهم نازلين ومش راجعين عشان البلد تنضف، الناس دى انضف من اى حد #جمعه_الارض— محمد (@al_kashef) 15 April 2016
People who went to streets today know well that they will either be arrested or killed. That they went to the streets and went back to get the country clean, these people are the cleanest among us all. #Friday_of_the_land
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