Social Media, Mainstream Media and the Egyptian Revolution Coverage

This is a presentation I gave in We Are What We Tweet


View more presentations from Noha Atef

According to the agenda you’ve got, I’m going to talk on how I have been following the Egyptian revolution through social media as a UK resident, and on the way mainstream media used social networks for their coverage to the 18 days of national wide protests in the most populated country in the Arab region.

First, I’d like to brief you on the media scene in Egypt before the January 25th, I’m not going to mention figures, just a photo that was published in the biggest and oldest Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram, a state run newspaper.
The photo is for Hosni taken at the launch of the latest Middle East peace talks – but with Mubarak switched to the front of the procession.

Fifteen years ago, such photoshopped picture would be just consumed by the newspaper readers the media meal and digested, but in 2010, as social network are accessible from offices, homes, and from mobiles in our pockets, it’s not at all difficult to notice the difference and tweet it, then the story make it to the media of everywhere in the world. When our friend spotted the difference and tweeted it, he was actually assessing mainstream media, making a story out of it and broadcasting it, using social media in the three stages.
Over the revolution, the scene was like this; like the right half of this screen shot form Aljazeer English. In the first of April, while Tahrir square in Cairo was loaded with at least one million protestors, Egypt state TV was showing this scene (Photo) claiming the protests are over, and ‘normal’ life is gradually back!

At that point, I had the options of watching the revolution through the Internet, TV or the press. And I believe all of you had the same options. I don’t have a TV honestly, but I used to watch the reports of different TVs on Youtube, on the next day, and most of the time, I was frustrated! Mainstream media with whatever limit of professionalism it has, is eventually owned by a person or a group who have interests, their interests are translated into ‘Editorial Policies’, the editorial policy is a key element of professionalism, if a newsroom doesn’t have it, it’s not professional, and if it does have, it means it have certain interests that regulates its maintenance.

I don’t mean hear bad intention or a sort of conspiracy theory, but media people are not as informed as they are on the ground…. Let’s watch this short video from CNN, and find out the mistake they did…

So, the iconic TV (CNN) couldn’t distinguish Egyptian flag from the Iranian one, the funny thing is that both American and Iranian media were trying to draw the same portrait for the uprising, as an ‘Islamic revolution’, that is lead by islamists, making use of the prayer protestors were performing in public, whereas praying on the street is a cultural thing, people tend to pray in public in Mubarak era, actually the act doesn’t point a thing except that common people are taking part on the protests


The contrast we all should be aware of, between mainstream and social media just gives reasons, to keep an eye on the popular social network, to compare and verify.

At the same time, mainstream media is watching social media as well, it has been using it as a source of news, Aljazeera and CNN, may be more others,  dedicated a slot in their news services to the updates coming from Twitter, Youtube, Bambuser and other social networks.

Journalist who were on the ground, have been using Twitter to spread the updates,  Sharif Adul Kuddos (Democracy Now), Nick Kristof (new York Times) and  Anderson Cooper (CNN) were the most popular media people to follow.
Also, using social platforms, major broadcasters including the BBC and Aljazeera have been providing a continuous live feed of events, Twitter activity and official press reports that keep coming in. Aljazeera, illustrated its source (Twitter) by creating a dashboard shows the average number of such tweets per minute for each country. It also shows a visual representation of the hashtag usage in each country getting the most attention in the Twittersphere.

An finally, taking the whole of social media shining as topic, building arguments such as “Facebook Revolution”, “Facebook Changed the  Regime” and “A Facebook led Revolution”, which still not understandable for me .

However, I cannot deny the way people utilized social media for mobilization, connecting each others around the country and to spread their words. The Internet was the platform everyone needed for being heard, even those who had never got online; they believed in online media’s capability of taking the truth to the world.

It was not surprising that a month after the revolution, the number of internet subscribers and social media users went high (Slide with the figures after and before)

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