Censorship from on high? Egypt's lowly media hacks turn the tables
Egypt’s revolution relied, in part, on the ability to communicate online. Would-be protestors tweeted information about meeting times and posted pictures documenting government human rights abuses. Before being ousted by his people, ex-president, Hosni Mubarak, issued a severe crack down on the media, arresting journalists and bloggers from across the country.
Mubarak was not alone in his quest to stifle online freedoms. Deposed Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, cut internet access across the country in a bid to quell uprisings and Tunisian ex-president, Ben Ali, used censorship extensively to try to stop the march of revolutionary progress.
Most recently, the main routers in Syria were turned off during a major government assault on the capital. Commentators almost universally blamed the regime, arguing that the internet blackout and the attack on Damascus were hardly likely to be a coincidence.
In Egypt’s case, Mubarak’s was a move intended to intimidate revolutionaries and cover-up attacks on peaceful protestors but it didn’t stop him being deposed after 18 days of demonstrations in February last year. Many Egyptians hoped that the democratic election of Mohamed Morsi that followed, would mark the beginning of a new era of ‘free press’ in the country.
But the country’s journalists were to be disappointed when a new constitution was set in place. When representatives met at the Constituent Assembly last month to discuss what should be included, the Journalists Syndicate say their questions over media rights were repeatedly ignored. Facing a brick wall, they eventually decided to withdraw from the discussion altogether.
Against the wishes of journalists across the country, Morsi's constitution failed to include any articles guarding against the imprisonment of journalists in cases related to freedom of expression.
With the constitution yet to be finalized, newspapers, TV channels and websites are giving the powers-that-be a taste of their own medicine. While governments across the region are determining what is on and off-line in their countrys, in Egypt, citizens are turning the tables.
Unable to operate as a free press, for one whole day they will give the country no press at all in a large-scale 'media blackout'. Twelve Egyptian newspapers have refused to go to print today, Tuesday, December 4th, and a further five TV channels will go off-air tomorrow, Wednesday, December 5th.
However, websites will remain up-and-running to cover the blackout. "We need the online media to be able to send the message of the strike to the reader," Alaa El-Attar, member of the Journalists Syndicate board told Ahram Online.
Like the young people of Tahrir Square before them, these media types will be using people-power to force the government into listening to their concerns. The days of shut-up and put-up are clearly long gone for Egyptians.
Has censorship come full circle from the time of Mubarak? Is stopping the press the best way to protest? Tell us what you think below.