The Last Frontier: In 2004, Egypt Had a Mere 40 Registered Blogs. Today, That Number Has Risen to Well over 1,000, Creating a New Medium for the Diffusion of Ideas. This Situation Has Worked in Favour of the Growing Opposition in the Country, Allowing Activists to Communicate Their Message of Dissent. Joseph Mayton Reports from Cairo
Mayton, Joseph, The Middle East
AS ALAA ABDEL FATTAH, an internationally renowned blogger, languishes in prison for his involvement at a public demonstration in May, Egyptians are taking to the internet in order to publicise their cause.
Alaa's blog, www.manalaa.net, won the Reporters Sans Frontieres award for Freedom of Expression. He continues to smuggle messages out of prison, which are then published on the web.
Manal, the second half of manalaa.net, and Alaa's wife explains, "Blogs reflect who we are as people and as we become more politically active it is reflected in our blogs."
But not all the attention the blogs have attracted has been welcome; the Egyptian authorities, in the form of national security operatives, seem to be taking a keen interest in developments. At recent public protests the Egyptian security forces appear to have singled out several bloggers for arrest, including Seif Al Islam who has become something of an icon for Egyptian bloggers, who have even established a website calling for his freedom from custody, freedroubi.blogspot.com.
"I was a bit of a sceptic about security personnel following up on people, but it is obvious they do," says Faisal, an Egyptian blogger by the same name. The political activists, who have been demonstrating on a weekly basis in Cairo, believe blogging is the key to creating an open atmosphere where ideas can be shared throughout a large proportion of society.
"I think what we are doing is right and our resolve is strong," says Manal. "I am just trying to keep the message going." Faisal believes that through blogs, a stronger and more appropriate voice will be given to millions of Egyptians: "I believe that blogs offer people more information than even the opposition newspapers. Although they are not yet widely read by people, blogs in this country are definitely useful. They are directed at a readership both inside and outside the country."
Citizens no longer have to rely on the media to know what has happened at a demonstration, blogging competes with newspapers and television to provide an informed source of news.
"Blogs are a sort of citizen's journalism," Manal says. "For example, Alaa gave a run-down of the events in Alexandria during the last sectarian violence there; it was much more accurate than other media. All the newspapers did was give the protesters a few sentences or paragraphs here and there, they totally missed the big picture. But the blogs covered the whole issue, making clear that Egyptians want a new way."
"Our blogs have more information then most of the opposition papers," confirms Faisal. "Now people are beginning to see them as a real source of information. …