Young Egyptian activists are hopeful efforts to enact online media legislation will give them greater freedom to express their views. This comes after the Internet was shut down during the 18 days of protests that led to the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak and his government on February 11, and the military crack-down on bloggers who criticize their policies and efforts.
The country’s ministry of communications announced last month that it was looking into creating new laws that would give bloggers and online activists greater rights and would help ensure they would not be charged for their writings. But that legislation has been slow to get off the ground, despite efforts from local media NGOs, including the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), who said continued pressure is needed to create a model of justice and “freedom for all who use the Internet to speak out against things they want to.”
Amr Naguib, a recent Cairo University communications graduate and participant in the recent revolution, said that the youth must push for the change they want without worry and they must do so immediately, or face similar policies that led to their disenfranchisement.
“We are all optimistic about the future of online media and blogging, but there has to be pressure on the authorities to change the way they have dealt with things in the recent years,” he began.
“We all have seen how important the Internet can be in mobilizing and giving information, but at the same time it is critical that our society not fall victim to the corruption and mistrust that the bloggers created and had before the revolution,” he added.
He is one of many young activists who use Twitter, Facebook and blogs to discuss, and inform people about, what is happening on the ground in Egypt. Many of those activists have been calling for legislation to create an open society where blogging and bloggers are not seen as the enemy.
William Jackson, an American researcher currently in Cairo looking at how new media can propel what has become a stalled revolution, said that guarantees are an important way of helping to push democracy and freedom in the country.
“Egyptians have lived in a state of fear for a long time and now it finally coming out of those harsh years, but more efforts are needed to make certain the country doesn’t fall into the same trap it had been in for years leading up to the protests,” he said.
By Desmond Shephard