CAIRO: As the international press focuses on the recent phenomenon of videos allegedly depicting police torture in Egypt, attention has focused on the blogs that first broke and continue to report on what some bloggers have dubbed “videogate.
But that’s not all you’ll find on the Egyptian blogosphere.
Many blogs circulated calls to join a rally at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC last week demanding the release of detained blogger Karim Amer, an expelled Azhar University student from Alexandria who has been behind bars since November, 2006.
Amnesty International (AI) protests calling for the closure of the US’s Guantanomo Bay detainment camp in Cuba – five years after it opened – reached their peak after an AI blog announced a month of activism against Guantanomo, starting Dec. 16.
Others blogs, like Freedom for Egyptians (freedomforegyptians.blogspot.com), responded to the appointment of Israel’s first Arab Muslim minister: “I wonder if there will be an Egyptian Jewish Minister one day.? she asked
The on-going UN investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the recent development that the US and France oppose allowing the chief UN investigator to identify the countries he feels are hindering the probe, was a popular new item outside of Egypt, posted on such blogs as Rantings of a Sandmonkey (sandmonkey.org).
3arabawy, authored by journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy, recently linked to a short documentary produced by anti-corruption watchdog shayfeen.com and the political organization Kefaya, showing compelling new footage of Central Security Forces violent crackdown on April and May 2006 protests in support of two Egyptian judges who blew the whistle on vote-rigging during the Dec. 2005 legislative elections.
The Big Pharaoh (bigpharaoh.com) described how he was at a downtown Cairo bookstore and a customer asked for books on Shiites. The blogger then asked the bookseller directly about increased readership of books on Shiism.
Yes, for the past year or two, the demand on books on Shiites increased exponentially. Look, we even have a whole shelf reserved for these books, the bookseller is quoted as saying.
But it is the expanding file of police torture footage that comes up most often, from blogs such as Wael Abbas’s at misrdigital.blogspirit.com – the “one-man photo and video news agency of the Egyptian blogosphere, according to the Arabist’s Issandr El Amrani.
The blog “Torture in Egypt (tortureinegypt.net) has also led online coverage of the video scandals.
Posted content includes footage of the sexual abuse of Emad Al-Kabir at the Boulaq police station, of Police Lieutenant Mustafa Shehata violently slapping a male suspect in at a police station in Haram, and of a woman suspect strung up on a stick that is suspended between two chairs, pleading with her interrogators.
The effects of posting such content, given the number of government arrests of bloggers in 2006, remains to be seen, although on Jan. 14 the Arabist Network (arabist.net) cited an email from Wael Abbas with the subject line: “I might get arrested tomorrow!
Al-Amrani Told the Daily Star Egypt that web traffic to the Arabist network, which includes El-Hamalawy’s blog, spiked on Jan. 2 and 10, with a steady rise in traffic overall in the last 12 months. He said that El-Hamalawy’s posts of the torture videos on his blog, 3arabawy, “were among the most requested pages over the last two months.
The blogging network website Global Voices Online has charted the developments of the torture story across the blogosphere.
“If bloggers. can continue to cover and draw attention to stories that the traditional media find harder to publish, as with the Eid sexual harassment incidents, the site wrote back in December, “then it may open the door for the media to enter the – which might finally make Egypt’s Interior Ministry take the problem seriously.