vonRonda Hauben 03.02.2011

Netizen Journalism and the New News

Exploring the impact of the net and the netizen on journalism and toward a more participatory form of citizenship.

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About 2 years ago there was an important struggle in Egypt in support of the Mahalla strikers which included netizens using facebook and other forms of Internet communication.

At the time I spoke with a journalist from Egypt who told me that the Internet and netizens were very important for Egypt as there was a long term struggle that would be coming to a head sometime in the near future, though no one knew when. The Egyptian President Mubarak in his 80’s would have to leave office sometime in the near future and the Egyptian people wanted a change, not a continuation of the Mubarak regime with Mubarak’s son Gamal succeeding his father as President.

From this conversation it was clear that there would be a struggle in Egypt in the near future, just not when.

One of the Egyptian netizens who has described the April 6 struggle in 2008 goes by the name Sandmonkey. Here is the url of a description of the 2008 struggle.


There have been reports today (February 3) that Sandmonkey was arrested and his blog suspended.

He has a touching summary of the struggle for democracy in Egypt in the past few days on his blog.

I had just copied this post a few minutes before his blog was suspended, so I am posting a copy of it below.

“Egypt, right now!”
posted by Sandmonkey on February 3, 2011


“I don’t know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue
for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one’s
friend house to another friend’s house, almost never spending a night
in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless
regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to
squash will come. The situation here is bleak to say the least.

It didn’t start out that way. On Tuesday Jan 25 it all started
peacefully, and against all odds, we succeeded to gather hundreds of
thousands and get them into Tahrir Square, despite being attacked by
Anti-Riot Police who are using sticks, tear gas and rubber bullets
against us. We managed to break all of their barricades and situated
ourselves in Tahrir. The government responded by shutting down all
cell communication in Tahrir square, a move which purpose was
understood later when after midnight they went in with all of their
might and attacked the protesters and evacuated the Square. The next
day we were back at it again, and the day after. Then came Friday and
we braved their communication blackout, their thugs, their tear gas
and their bullets and we retook the square. We have been fighting to
keep it ever since.

That night the government announced a military curfew, which kept
getting shorter by the day, until it became from 8 am to 3 pm. People
couldn’t go to work, gas was running out quickly and so were essential
goods and money, since the banks were not allowed to operate and
people were not able to collect their salary. The internet continued
to be blocked, which affected all businesses in Egypt and will cause
an economic meltdown the moment they allow the banks to operate again.

We were being collectively punished for daring to say that we deserve
democracy and rights, and to keep it up, they withdrew the police, and
then sent them out dressed as civilians to terrorize our
neighborhoods. I was shot at twice that day, one of which with a
semi-automatic by a dude in a car that we the people took joy in
pummeling. The government announced that all prisons were breached,
and that the prisoners somehow managed to get weapons and do nothing but randomly attack people. One day we had organized thugs in uniforms
firing at us and the next day they disappeared and were replaced by
organized thugs without uniforms firing at us. Somehow the people
never made the connection.

Despite it all, we braved it. We believed we are doing what’s right
and were encouraged by all those around us who couldn’t believe what
was happening to their country. What he did galvanized the people, and
on Tuesday, despite shutting down all major roads leading into Cairo,
we managed to get over 2 million protesters in Cairo alone and 3
million all over Egypt to come out and demand Mubarak’s departure.
Those are people who stood up to the regime’s ruthlessness and anger
and declared that they were free, and were refusing to live in the
Mubarak dictatorship for one more day. That night, he showed up on TV,
and gave a very emotional speech about how he intends to step down at
the end of his term and how he wants to die in Egypt, the country he
loved and served. To me, and to everyone else at the protests this
wasn’t nearly enough, for we wanted him gone now. Others started
asking that we give him a chance, and that change takes time and other
such poppycock. Hell, some people and family members cried when they
saw his speech. People felt sorry for him for failing to be our
dictator for the rest of his life and inheriting us to his Son. It was
an amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality in a
malevolent combination that we never saw before. And the Regime
capitalized on it today.

Today, they brought back the internet, and started having people
calling on TV and writing on facebook on how they support Mubarak and
his call for stability and peacefull change in 8 months. They hung on
to the words of the newly appointed government would never harm the
protesters, whom they believe to be good patriotic youth who have a
few bad apples amongst them. We started getting calls asking people to
stop protesting because “we got what we wanted” and “we need the
country to start working again”. People were complaining that they
miss their lives. That they miss going out at night, and ordering Home
Delivery. That they need us to stop so they can resume whatever
existence they had before all of this. All was forgiven, the past week
never happened and it’s time for Unity under Mubarak’s rule right now.

To all of those people I say: NEVER! I am sorry that your lives and
businesses are disrupted, but this wasn’t caused by the Protesters.
The Protesters aren’t the ones who shut down the internet that has
paralyzed your businesses and banks: The government did. The
Protesters weren’t the ones who initiated the military curfew that
limited your movement and allowed goods to disappear off market
shelves and gas to disappear: The government did. The Protesters
weren’t the ones who ordered the police to withdraw and claimed the
prisons were breached and unleashed thugs that terrorized your
neighborhoods: The government did. The same government that you wish to give a second chance to, as if 30 years of dictatorship and utter failure in every sector of government wasn’t enough for you. The
Slaves were ready to forgive their master, and blame his cruelty on
those who dared to defy him in order to ensure a better Egypt for all
of its citizens and their children. After all, he gave us his word,
and it’s not like he ever broke his promises for reform before or

Then Mubarak made his move and showed them what useful idiots they all were.

You watched on TV as “Pro-Mubarak Protesters” – thugs who were paid
money by NDP members by admission of High NDP officials- started
attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir square. They
attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding
horses and camels- in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown
on TV- and carrying whips to beat up the protesters. And then the
Bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting
thrown at the Anti-Mubarak Protesters as the Army standing idly by,
allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it. Dozens were
killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances.
The Police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones
who were captured by the Anti-mubarak people had police ID’s on them.
They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and
even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on Fire. The Aim was clear: Use
the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of
concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst
the people of Egypt. But their plans ultimately failed, by those
resilient brave souls who wouldn’t give up the ground they freed of
Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at
them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to
put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That
Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to
the ground than even contemplate that possibility.

In the meantime, State-owned and affiliated TV channels were showing
coverage of Peaceful Mubarak Protests all over Egypt and showing
recorded footage of Tahrir Square protest from the night before and
claiming it’s the situation there at the moment. Hundreds of calls by
public figures and actors started calling the channels saying that
they are with Mubarak, and that he is our Father and we should support
him on the road to democracy. A veiled girl with a blurred face went
on Mehwer TV claiming to have received funding by Americans to go to
the US and took courses on how to bring down the Egyptian government
through protests which were taught by Jews. She claimed that AlJazeera
is lying, and that the only people in Tahrir square now were Muslim
Brotherhood and Hamas. State TV started issuing statements on how the
people arrested Israelis all over Cairo engaged in creating mayhem and
causing chaos. For those of you who are counting this is an
American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy.
Imagine that. And MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT IT. I recall telling a friend of
mine that the only good thing about what happened today was that it
made clear to us who were the idiots amongst our friends. Now we know.

Now, just in case this isn’t clear: This protest is not one made or
sustained by the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s one that had people from all
social classes and religious background in Egypt. The Muslim
Brotherhood only showed up on Tuesday, and even then they were not the
majority of people there by a long shot. We tolerated them there since
we won’t say no to fellow Egyptians who wanted to stand with us, but
neither the Muslims Brotherhood not any of the Opposition leaders have
the ability to turn out one tenth of the numbers of Protesters that
were in Tahrir on Tuesday. This is a revolution without leaders. Three
Million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on
hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that.

The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader,
and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over
and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake
protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay “because he
has to acquiesce to the voice of the people”. This is a losing battle
and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we
can’t. I am heading to Tahrir right now with supplies for the hundreds
injured, knowing that today the attacks will intensify, because they
can’t allow us to stay there come Friday, which is supposed to be the
game changer. We are bringing everybody out, and we will refuse to be
anything else than peaceful. If you are in Egypt, I am calling on all
of you to head down to Tahrir today and Friday. It is imperative to
show them that the battle for the soul of Egypt isn’t over and done
with. I am calling you to bring your friends, to bring medical
supplies, to go and see what Mubarak’s gurantees look like in real
life. Egypt needs you. Be Heroes.”


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