Social media has been glorified in the wake of the Arab uprisings throughout the past year. Platforms like Twitter and Youtube were given unwarranted much credit as revolutionary tools, which in their mere nature of empowering the people led to the fall of dictators. An orientalist approach welcomed and promoted by Western – especially American – media.
Today, a year later, any notion of giving credit to the social media tools more than the actual people using them, is generally considered ignorant. Not least in Egypt, where social media initially might have been at the center, but according to young Egyptian journalist, Rowan El Shimi protesters and citizens are recognizing that revolution happen in the streets – not in front of the computer.
In a country where internet penetration is low and many can’t read and write, social media platforms can only reach so many and are considered with major skepticism.
Still, the use of Youtube for covering and documenting brutal attacks on protesters have had an irrevocable impact – so much that there’s a conviction in people’s mind that ‘if its on Youtube, it happened – if not, it didn’t,’ says the Egyptian Nasry Esmat, Senior News Editor at Yahoo and EMAJ trainer.
Due to this acknowledged importance of the Egyptian citizens’ Youtube videos, the non-profit media centre Mosireen formed, which gathers these videos for a major archive, explains Rowan El Shimi. This systematic collecting and organizing of videos has led to the videos being broadcasted on private TV stations, and as Mosireen – meaning ‘we assist’ – recognized the lack of access to information by ordinary Egyptian, they encouraged people to project their collected videos in public fora, such as walls. This allows people access to the tools of social media without the access to social media and literally takes social media to the streets.
Where the Mosireen initiative is going is yet difficult to estimate, but though a revolution cannot be tweeted, the tools of social media for covering the revolution are without a doubt priceless.
The story is based on discussions and discoveries made during the EMAJ2012 Academy in Alexandria, but reflects authors own opinions.
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