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Egypt + Al Jazeera
Egypt and Al Jazeera

February 3, 2011

The fast moving developments in Egypt have profound ramifications for the entire Middle East and rest of the world. These mass protests are unprecedented in the history of the modern Middle East. The street level national movements first in Tunisia and now Egypt will reshape the region and already have had ripple effects in Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. 

From conversations I've had, it seems many are not aware of how to access the most credible information sources. The go to source for coverage in Egypt and the Middle East is Al Jazeera English (AJE), including a live stream. Apparently Obama relies on two TV sources: AJE and CNN. Sadly, AJE is only carried by a handful of cable systems in the United States but interestingly Washington D.C. is one of them. (Burlington, VT - home of Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is another.) This is self censorship at its worst and it's especially appalling that most cable systems offer 100's of garbage channel choices yet don't include an important resource that provides a true alternative to FOX and CNN.  

Money talks and if enough viewers demand it - it'll be added. Contact your cable system and tell them if it's good enough for Obama, why not  me?  More info here.

NPR's David Folkenflik did a piece during ATC this past Monday on 

AJE's rising profile in the U.S. Click here for whole story.   

Key excerpt follows: (my bold)

FOLKENFLIK:  ...in talking to analysts, they say that Al-Jazeera has been much more sophisticated than its American and Western counterparts. For example, when President Mubarak named his intelligence chief as the new vice president, the channel's pundits instantly knew that protesters would probably recoil, as that intelligence chief has been linked to various episodes of torture there.

I spoke earlier today to former State Department official named Katie Stanton. She's now vice president at Twitter. She says everyone, including government officials here in the States, are turning to Al-Jazeera as a trusted source of news, and that Al-Jazeera has used Twitter aggressively to get out its reports.

It helps to remember - I mean, you're talking about Jazeera's incredibly dramatic footage while a crackdown was in place. Think back last Friday, the authorities shut down the Internet, shut down cell phone traffic, and yet Al-Jazeera was still broadcasting to the outside world. It was perhaps most tangible and vivid in moments where you could hear reporters telling the anchors on Al-Jazeera English's feed that there were policemen at the door, trying to knock down the doors to shut down the coverage.

MSNBC, trying to play catch-up, was airing footage from Al-Jazeera itself.

NORRIS: So the revolution was televised.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. Exactly.

Well, the revolution is not televised in the Bay Area unless you access AJE's live stream or watch via the excellent download program Livestation.

Mubarak's government closed the AJE Cairo bureau in the beginning of the protests and next disabled its primary signal sources. Additionally, AJE journalists and media from all over including bloggers have been targeted, roughed up, detained  and their equipment confiscated. For protection, AJE journalists report anonymously and don't disclose their precise locations. The AJE coverage is excellent despite the challenges.  

Link  TV
has a 7p Al Jazeera news broadcast and often breaks in for special Al Jazeera reports from Egypt. (Check channels 27 and 75 on SF Comcast.)

KPFA now airs Al Jazeera 6a-7a during the week, right before Democracy Now which is superb in its own right.

Another source worth checking out is the Guardian UK reporting by

Jack Shenker.  Last week he was beaten and captured by Egyptian security and eventually escaped along with about 60 protesters. The police confiscated Jack's equipment but he hid his recorder. Jack recorded much of the harrowing experience as they were driven in the dark through Cairo.  It's a must listen.

Mubarak will be ousted. It's a question of when and at what price? Mubarak cannot win a civil disobedience fight so yesterday the government unleashed a large mob consisting of paid goons (reportedly released from prison), plain clothes state police and party members armed with fire bombs, guns and rocks. Mubarak hopes fear of chaos will sway people to support his brand of stability. The army refused to protect the demonstrators or get involved. What they did do was protect the Egyptian Museum and prevent demonstrators from bringing in food and water. 

Today (Feb 3) most of the pro-Mubarak forces have melted away. Perhaps the government realizes its plan backfired as tourists and money flee the country, the West toughens its stance against the regime, and the economy bleeds a billion dollars and counting. In a sickening development, today snipers emerged at the protest epicenter, Tahrir Square. As of this writing four demonstrators have been shot through the head. It's hard to imagine high caliber weaponry existing without government assistance. The pro-democracy protesters have vowed a "day of departure" tomorrow (Feb. 4) in which they will demand Mubarak's departure.

The bravery of the demonstrators is inspiring and reminds me not to take freedom for granted.

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