What really happened in Egypt on Friday?

Published April 17th, 2016 - 02:23 GMT
Egyptians rally outside Cairo's Press Syndicate, bearing signs saying "Egypt is not for Sale" (AFP / Mohamed el-Shahed)
Egyptians rally outside Cairo's Press Syndicate, bearing signs saying "Egypt is not for Sale" (AFP / Mohamed el-Shahed)

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.

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. 

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.

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:

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

And meanwhile, the calls for a new revolution continued:

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