How Events In Egypt Are Playing Out Online
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Welcome back to the program.
ADEL ISKANDAR: Thank you.
BLOCK: I want to talk with you first about state television and its evolving role as these protests have gone on. Let's - initially, in these weeks of protests, what would you have seen if you turned on state television in Egypt? Anything?
ISKANDAR: Well, you would see a very stark contrast compared to some of the other satellite television programs that are being streamed into Egyptian homes. So, initially, state television was very much in line - direct, you know, communiques between the government and the broadcasters, so nothing that steered away from the government line. So it sounded very propagandistic, and that was, you know, one of the startling contrasts.
BLOCK: Would there have been an acknowledgement that there were protesters in the streets? Would you have seen images of Tahrir Square and what was going on?
ISKANDAR: Very rarely. Very rarely. In fact, most of the images and most of the video was actually either stills of Egypt - very, very tranquil, very quiet, very serene images and videos of the Nile and surrounding buildings, architecture, things of that sort, and patriot music. But nothing that really showed unrest in the streets of Cairo, specifically not Tahrir Square.
BLOCK: And how has that evolved over the last couple of weeks?
ISKANDAR: Well, I think with the growing disenchantment and the rise in the number of protesters in the streets of Egypt and, of course, the scandals as far as international media is concerned, the state television has had to come into the fold. And so, eventually, their programming has at least described the existence of protests but, to a great extent, underestimated and underreported the magnitude of these protests.
BLOCK: And what about tonight after President Mubarak's speech where he said he was not stepping down?
ISKANDAR: But after the speech, it seems like there's a relative perplexion on the part of the journalists. They don't know how to report the story, particularly. So they're saying that people are walking away from Tahrir Square, contemplating what's going on but not really rejecting the concession.
BLOCK: I want to talk to you, too, about the role of Al Jazeera, which has been a real target for the fury of the Egyptian government. Why don't you explain that role?
ISKANDAR: This is - they've come on air again in the last 24 hours. But I think the damage is done. And now, Mubarak is making public statements, accusing foreign powers of interfering. And that's very much a closeted accusation against Al Jazeera and its sponsoring nation of Qatar.
BLOCK: Do you figure most people in Egypt who are trying to get news about what's going on would be tuning to state television or to Al Jazeera? Would it depend entirely on how they feel about President Mubarak?
ISKANDAR: So I think this story is far more interesting to the Egyptians than anyone else, and so they're serving the scene as much as they possibly can to keep up with the latest developments.
BLOCK: Let's listen to something he said yesterday on CNN.
WAEL GHONIM: Unidentified Man: Was this an Internet revolution?
GHONIM: Definitely, this is the Internet revolution. And I'll call it Revolution 2.0.
BLOCK: Revolution 2.0. Adel Iskandar, do you think in some level that's facile, that this goes well beyond tweeting and Facebook, what's going on in Egypt reflects deep-seated grievances that are longstanding?
ISKANDAR: So I think it's important to recognize the role of the Internet. But once the Internet is cut off, then it's, you know, it's the will of the people to translate action to bodies on the street. And that's exactly what happened the moment Wael Ghonim was cut off the Internet, arrested, detained, and everything was gone.
BLOCK: Adel Iskandar, a lecturer in Arab media at Georgetown University, thanks for coming in.
ISKANDAR: Thank you for having me.
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