British Playwright, Tom Stoppard had it right when he said: “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
If you want to enact change, you need to spread your message to the masses. This task is becoming more and more achievable with the evolution of social media. One of the most interesting outgrowths of this evolution is citizen journalism. The public has more power and control over the media than ever before. If you have a camera and a computer, you can reach millions of people in minutes. Websites like YouTube have revolutionized the way we tell stories. Citizen journalism doesn’t provide the depth and analysis you get from professional journalism. It does however, provide a more raw potrayal of a story and is often first at hitting the airwaves.
This is certainly the case with the crisis in Egypt. Modern media and technology has fuelled this story in a way that would have been unthinkable in the days of Tiananmen Square. From the beginning of the Egyptian revolt three weeks ago, the internet has been bombarded with amateur videos of protests and upheaval in the streets of Cairo. Videos like this one of protestors praying on a bridge give a realistic glimpse at the conflict unfolding in the city. The sound alone is truly haunting.
I’ve been getting most of my news coverage from cbcnews.ca. What amazes me is the dedication of journalists in Cairo, despite the danger they encounter on a daily basis. Mark Kelley’s car was attacked by protestors, Susan Ormiston was arrested and Anderson Cooper was hit in the head repeatedly. Yet, they remain loyal to their mission of shedding light on Egypt’s injustices.
As I followed the CBC coverage, I began considering why the world has taken such an interest in Egypt. Do we really care about the people of Egypt, or is it our Western tendency to hope democracy will defeat oppressive dictatorships?
I also considered the role (or limitation) of the internet in this political revolution. Shutting down major social networking sites like Twitter and blocking internet access only urged people to continue in their fight and explained the resistance of the anti-Mubarak protestors. The higher the government builds a wall, the more the citizens want to break it down.