The Arab Spring: Revolution and Shifting Geopolitics - Unplugging a Nation

State Media Strategy during Egypt's January 25 Uprising

By: Alexandra Dunn

Alexandra Dunn is a program development officer at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and a social media researcher. She is a research partner in the Tahrir Data Initiative, aiming to empirically assess the role of media during the uprising. The data set and accompanying research can be found at www.tahrirdata.info.

Excerpt -  35 Fletcher F. World Aff. 15


INTRODUCTION

As access to information communication technology (ICT) becomes more widespread, it has become part of national infrastructure and global networks used not only by governments and businesses, but by populations at large. Though there is considerable debate concerning the impact of communication tools--such as the Internet and mobile phones--on political engagement, there can be no question that communication tools are socially and economically embedded. Traditionally, limiting communications has been justified by the potential negative impact its content could have on the security of a nation. In reality, governments crack down on communications because they fear the negative impact of watchdog-journalism and untethered opposition on their own positions of power.

In Egypt, the thirty-year-old emergency law has been used to justify many limitations on the content of expression, but during the January 25 uprising, the government instituted a widespread shutdown of communication tools in an effort to quarantine dissent. This shutdown strategy has implications for the future relationship between governments and media and communication spheres. It also indicates how governments might perceive the potential of network- and communication-based political organization.

A government's attitude toward the media sphere is telling. Though violent attacks on protestors or extrajudicial arrests of opposition figures are easily identified as aggressive rights violations, attacks on the media are less visible in that they often result in the disappearance of an abstraction--the free flow of information between individuals. The process of the Egyptian government's aggressive assault on media requires careful consideration. It first ...

 

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