For the past month riots and violence have rocked Egypt since President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, was removed from power by the military.
“I think the transition to democracy hasn’t been smooth,” Dr. Kelly McHugh, assistant professor of political science, said. “So you had the overthrow of the Mubarak government in 2011, a lot of optimism, and then you got an elected leader who was democratically elected but did not act in a democratic manner once in office. So that’s why a lot of people cheered the military coup.”
Morsi was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic-based political group. Once Morsi was elected, some said that Morsi excluded other groups, which made citizens angry.
McHugh said that the Muslim Brotherhood overreached itself.
“They were looking to set the country up, basically, to be a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated regime for many many years,” McHugh said.
Since Morsi has been removed from power, the Muslim Brotherhood has called for citizens to fight the new regime. Likewise, the military has asked citizens to take up arms in defense of the new regime and has sent military personnel to crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters.
“Now it’s basically a contest, each side claiming bigger numbers to basically say ‘We represent the will of the people,’” McHugh said, “So it really is trying to create the image that ‘we’re’ the true representative of the people.”
Both the Muslim Brotherhood and military leaders have used social media to post calls to actions and news. Supporters of both sides have also posted videos, pictures and opinions on what is happening in Egypt.
“When the government or Muslim Brotherhood goes after someone, uses violence, they say ‘I have video footage of it, it’s not something you can deny,’” McHugh said.
Dr. Bruce Anderson, associate professor of political science and pre-law advisor, said that social media is only part of the story.
“What we don’t see is how they’re communicating by e-mail and other electronic means to get real stories and pictures and things like that out of the country,” Anderson said.
The new rise in social media has encouraged Egyptian citizens to organize and share information about events.
“Media is incredibly diverse now,” McHugh said. “You don’t have one TV channel in Egypt that used to be the state channel where the government was the one source you had.”
Currently the government is investigating whether or not the Al Jazeera Mubasher satellite channel, an Arabic news network that has recently come to America, can legally broadcast in Egypt.
“Al Jazeera’s been a big proponent of protesters during the revolution so, that outlet, the social media outlet, the government’s really scrambling to control these because they’re kind of beyond the reach of government power,” McHugh said. “They want to control information.”
Anderson said that the repression of information could be indicative of things to come.
“One of the things that will lead, very quickly, down a road to a military dictatorship, again, is the censorship of the press,” Anderson said.
The protests in Egypt have continued, some only staying nonviolent for an hour. Recently Mubarak, Egypt’s former dictator, has left prison, some sources say for house arrest, which has sparked new anger.
McHugh said that the current protests are going through a “cycle.”
“What happens is, there’s a protest. It turns violent. The protesters are angry: they come back the next night…it goes from people protesting to a couple people being killed and full-scale rioting,” McHugh said.
While the country is not in a civil war, violence has continued well into late August.
“Violence against protesters tends to make them more determined,” McHugh said.