The demonstrations and sit-ins in Egypt over the last week represent “history in the making” to say the least.
They were organized by an increasingly media-savvy crowd. The demonstrators in Tahrir Square did not cease to captivate, entertain and visually amuse their audience, using TV and mobile phone cameras to create a revolutionary spectacle, feeding live TV coverage with entertaining imagery.
In parallel, social media was alive as thousands of activists sent pictures, videos and text updates from Tahrir Square and other sites. The virtual space was filled with pictures, jokes and language games.
During the past week Tahrir Square was enlivened with fireworks, laser light shows and live concerts, in addition to the usual placards, pictures and flags. At dusk, the demonstrators filled Tahrir Square, the Mogamma (or Tahrir Complex) and other major areas with their physical presence and voices, chanting anti-Mursi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans.
In the June-July 2013 protests, the medium was not only Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, but also the streets, buildings and the sky – which was nightly illuminated with fireworks.
Raising the red cards
Red cards were raised by many protesters during the demonstrations, shouting “out” at Mursi. After the former president’s speech earlier in the week, protestors were pictured with their shoes raised up. 'Irhal' (leave) was scripted in fire in the middle of Tahrir Square, while laser light shows on the Tahrir Complex showed the image of the crescent and the cross together, and messages like “long live Egypt”, “game over”, and “people ousted the regime”.
The demonstrators in Tahrir Square did not cease to captivate, entertain and visually amuse their audience, using TV and mobile phone cameras to create a revolutionary spectacle, feeding live TV coverage with entertaining imagery.Abeer al-Najjar
This year’s demonstrations also sparked humor, both among Egyptians and other Arabs commentating on the events as they unfolded. A young Saudi man wrote on Twitter on June 4: “Syrian state TV urges Syrian citizens to leave Egypt caring for their safety”. Another from Jordan wrote “Breaking news: Bassem Yousif reduces the number of his team by 50% due to the resignation of Mursi”. A Facebook page was created to spread and document the jokes of June 30 protests.
Humor on Egypt’s political scene has developed since the Jan. 25, 2011 protests, not least with the political satire of Bassem Youssef and other TV presenters. Muslim Brotherhood leaders, TV hosts and the ousted president Mohammad Mursi were the frequent targets of parody on Youssef’s weekly show, which saw unprecedented popularity in terms of ratings and YouTube views.
There is no doubt that these shows, performances and images are preplanned and well designed. The impact of the technologically savvy protestors is clear in both their online and offline activities. Besides the symbolic value of their actions, they show a great deal of media literacy and awareness, in getting their message across to the rest of Egypt, region and wider world.
The protests and performances in Tahrir Square made a typical “media event”, or “media festive” as sociologists call it. That term refers to events that are “preplanned, announced and advertised” in advance, bringing a spectacle capable of – among other things – attracting and sustaining media attention. Tahrir Square became the stage in which millions of people performed their cry for change, as history was made live on TV.
Abeer al-Najjar, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Journalism & Media Studies at the American University of Sharjah. She was the Dean of Jordan Media Institute in Amman, Jordan from 2011-2012, where she taught graduate courses in research methods in journalism and capstone projects. Al-Najjar is a member of an Advisory Group of Experts working on “World Trends in the State of Freedom of Expression and Media Development”. Her research interests include, but are not limited to journalism in the Arab countries, popular culture, religious media & women and new media. Al-Najjar published many journal articles and book chapters about Arab media including "Patriotism and Popularity in News: Tough Choices Facing Arab Journalists."
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