With Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the first phase of the Egyptian popular revolution is over.
Whether the current military regime will make way for a full democracy is an open question, as is the fate of Egyptian-Israeli relations. But we can’t help admiring a people who shook off the yoke of their oppressors, even if Jewish wisdom tells us that not all changes in Egyptian regimes are improvements (cf. Exodus 1:8).
Here in America, there has been a debate over the role that media – old and new – played in the uprising.
We were impressed by our brave journalistic colleagues who struggled to cover the revolution amid the violence of Mubarak’s supporters, who yelled “Jew! Jew!” as they attacked reporters. The violence was stoked by the state-controlled television, which claimed that “Israeli spies” were behind the protests.
Most painfully, Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” suffered what CBS called a “brutal and sustained” sexual assault. She was hospitalized in Washington. Also, Fox News Channel’s foreign correspondent Greg Palkot and producer Olaf Wiig were hospitalized in Cairo after being attacked by protesters.
Which left us shocked at what some of our media colleagues who stayed at home had to say.
Rush Limbaugh’s response to reports that two reporters had been detained: “I don’t feel any anger over this.” Rather: “We do feel kind of going like nyah nyah nyah!”
We at The Jewish Standard do feel anger at the attacks, and great admiration for those who risk their safety to report the news.
But in today’s media environment, the reporters on the scene are only one element. The protests in Tunisia, remember, were launched in response to documents obtained and released to newspapers by WikiLeaks. What American embassy officials privately cabled the State Department about the abuses of Tunisia’s leadership proved explosive when they reached the Tunisian people.
From Tunisia, the protests spread, in large measure, because of Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab broadcaster independent of state censorship. (Make that relatively independent – based in tiny Qatar, Al Jazeera is said to cower before neighboring Saudi Arabia.) From Egypt, the protests have spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and even Iran.
Within each country, the online services of Facebook and Twitter helped individuals coordinate protests.
And the global mass media told the protesters – and the American-trained Egyptian army officials weighing their response – that “the whole world is watching.”