Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt / AL Jazeera / media power

I'm watching events unfold on the streets of Cairo on Al Jazeera. They have just put up a side by side feed of what their camera is showing, and what Egyptian state television is showing. It's a very good illustration of the power of the media.

The reproduction here is not so good. The one on the left is Al Jazeera showing a police vehicle that has been set on light by the protesters, and is part of a rolling montage of clips of crowds, destroyed vehicles and burning buildings. The local commentators are also referring to explosions and the sound of gunfire. The picture on the right is Egyptian state TV, taking film, according to Al Jazeera, approximately two hundred yards from the Al Jazeera camera. It shows peaceful scenes across Cairo with no sound feed.

The average Egyptian citizen, if they can't hear the sounds from their own windows, might be forgiven for thinking that nothing is going on. There is the power of the media.

Meanwhile, media or no, protests are widespread across urban Egypt (there is no word of what is happening in the countryside), and the regime has taken time to catch up. Now there is an internet black out, and much mobile coverage is down. But it appears to be too late. People are on the streets, it appears, not because they have been called out by opposition parties, but because they are fed up. The regime has not been able, or has not felt able, to instruct the police to be violent. The army has just moved in to Suez and Alexandria, and is being welcomed by the protesters. Neither police or army is making any effort to enforce the nighttime curfew that was ordered today.

Perhaps they're too busy wondering how to react to Hillary Clinton's statement this afternoon that there has to be reform in Egypt. A mainstay of their international political support is detaching itself, and they have nothing to replace it with. I'm guessing right now that mubarak will be gone very soon.

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