Revolution 2.0: New Media and the Transformation of the Egyptian Political and Communication Landscapes

Revolution 2.0: New Media and the Transformation of the Egyptian Political and Communication Landscapes

Sahar Khamis (University of Maryland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6433-3.ch082
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Abstract

This chapter analyzes the role of new media, especially Internet-based communication, in accelerating the process of political transformation and democratization in Egypt. It analyzes the Egyptian media landscape before, during and after the 2011 revolution which toppled the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. In the pre-revolutionary phase, the eclectic and paradoxical political and communication landscapes in Egypt, and the role that new media played in paving the way for the revolution, is discussed. During the 2011 revolution, the role of new media, especially social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, is highlighted in terms of the multiple roles they play as catalysts for change, avenues for civic engagement, and platforms for citizen journalism. In the post-revolutionary phase, the multiple changes and challenges exhibiting themselves after the revolution are analyzed, especially the divisiveness between different players in the Egyptian political arena and how it is reflected in the communication landscape.
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The Paradoxical Egyptian Media Landscape Prior To The 2011 Revolution

Before the 1952 revolution, Egypt was a monarchy under Ottoman rule, and it struggled against French and British occupations. This political context of fighting against Ottoman rule and foreign occupations gave birth to a general media atmosphere which was characterized by hot political debates, highly nationalistic sentiments, and patriotic struggles against foreign invasion and colonialism (Hamroush, 1989). This era was also rich in its cultural wealth and intellectual diversity, because the newspapers provided platforms for various writers, poets, and thinkers to display their literary contributions. It also witnessed the birth of a strong and dynamic partisan press and a highly politicized and vibrant media environment.

When a group of army officers toppled the monarchy and seized power, turning Egypt into a republic, the so-called 1952 revolution led to mostly tragic developments in the Egyptian media scene. The pluralistic and vibrant media scene that had prevailed before the 1952 revolution was replaced by a much more monolithic and restrictive media environment, after Egypt achieved her independence. In this new era, all media fell under strict governmental supervision, control, and ownership. Newspapers of the pre-1952 era started to disappear, as many were closed by the government, heavy financial fines were imposed on them, and many journalists were jailed (Abdel Rahman, 1985; 2002).

The era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, in particular, was characterized by autocratic leadership, since he exercised an iron fist policy in dealing with his opponents. His policy led to a severe backlash in the margin of freedom enjoyed by various media, because he deliberately controlled mass media to mobilize people behind the government’s policies and ideologies (Boyd, 1977; 1999). Most importantly, “Nasser’s nationalization of the press marked the end of its freedom, professionalism, and excellence” (Nasser, 1990, p. 4) by curbing its diversity and plurality.

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