Lots of confusion this morning, as several generally credible news sources splashed across the Internet the news that Asmaa Mahfouz had been referred for military prosecution, following her questioning by the military prosecutor Sunday.
The news turned out to be false–so far–and was denied by Asmaa herself in a tweet: I contacted the military prosecution and they denied the news,” Asmaa tweeted. She added later that she had not received any notification of a court referral.
Asmaa’s tweet ran counter to reports of a military trial spurred by an early morning post on Ahram Online. The report was quickly corrected in a tweet by Asmaa – who called the prosecutor herself! – and an hour later in a post in The Daily News Egypt and an apology on the We Are All Khaled Said facebook page: I apologise for the previous post. Asmaa has denied that she has been taken to a military trial.
This episode is also a good reminder that in our lightning-fast world, first reports are not always correct, and twitter allows the source herself to confirm or deny seconds later.
With the death of American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron last week, one of the great heroes of our time has moved on. I was tremendously moved by the very personal obituary written by his publisher Jamie Byng.
As I watch Scott-Heron’s famous work, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, I am struck by how much the times have changed since he released that fiery criticism of the media on his debut album, A New Black Poet – Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, in 1970. At that time, TV and the media were perceived as mind-numbing and controlling forces. Fast forward 40 years, and we have citizen TV, Internet videos, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, plus websites like AlJazeera, which provides a platform for citizen videos, and Global Voices, a community website that reports on blogs and citizen media around the world. The inherent freedom of citizen media is powerful; it is literally pulling down tyrannies across the Middle East and will probably continue to do so around the world.
If I may suggest a small update edit, “Not” should probably be “Now.”
I never get tired of watching these two videos. They are just two of many recent Internet videos in which children explain complex political situations with astounding clarity. These go far beyond the “cute kids” genre (although they are that :-)) to show the capability of children to understand and explain our world to us through the medium of video. For example, Nina is the first one who made me understand that the revolution in Egypt is fundamentally an economic one. I encourage children to start producing videos like these. Parents should supervise, of course, but making Internet videos is so technically simple these days that children in primary schools can do it. Internet videos might just become the new Show-and-Tell.
I’m so honored to have Asmaa Mahfouz of Cairo as a friend on Facebook. She’s the one who helped sparked the Egyptian revolution with her January 18 video on Facebook which I featured in my “Tahrir Voices” video. Her vlog inspired thousands of Egyptians to abandon their fear and join her in Tahrir Square to protest the repressive regime. Her vlog also drove the Egyptian government to block Facebook, Twitter, and the AlJazeera website, and contributed to the regime’s later shutdown of the Internet altogether in Egypt.
The video was later translated and posted to youtube on February 1 by AyahElBagdhadi, where it quickly went viral (currently 188,000 views) and became a contributing force to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak ten days later on February 11.
Asmaa continues to be a vocal advocate of Egyptian freedom, and I am glad to be able to hear her important voice via Facebook. Asmaa has 4,666 other friends on Facebook, so this is not personal, but instead is a use of Facebook as a public face. This is such an important function of Facebook. I also “like” the pages of Wael Ghonim (283,938 likes), the Google exec who authored the “We Are All Khaled” Facebook page in Arabic, another contributing force in the Egyptian revolution, which I also “like” in the English version (119,443 likes). Of course, most of this is Arabic, which is a challenge, but well worth it to be able to hear the authentic voices of Egypt’s future.
Freedom is the most important quality of my life. I generously and loudly support it everywhere and harshly criticize anyone who dares suppress it for another without a very good reason. It is with anguish that I hear that the Egyptian military are cracking down and arresting bloggers in Egypt who dare criticize them. And it is with joy that I see Egyptian bloggers are losing their fear of the military, just as they lost their fear of Mubarak earlier this year, and have chosen this day to mark their online liberation. Hashtag on Twitter is #may23. With this blog post, I join them.
[cue sounds of heavy boots pounding on your doorstep and the front door crashing in . . . if you have time before they storm in, read the news in the Second Life Forum here about Facebook deleting Second Life avatar accounts. And before you have to grab your data and run, read a cautionary tale.