Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inclusiveness Of Citizen Media In Egypt

posted by Eman AbdElRahman

In the series of posts highlighting the current state of citizen media in Egypt, we have talked about taboos like sexuality in the blogsphere, in addition to the cultural side of it. However, a question is still relevant - whether or not all the voices on the blogsphere are representative to the various voices in Egypt, or is it only inclusive to the capital city?

Cairo streets by Ed Yourdon.

Cairo street scenes. Image by Flickr user Ed Yourdon. CC BY-SA

Cairo - The capital city

The population of Egypt, according to a survey conducted in July 2007, is estimated to be around 80 million, where the estimated rate of growth of population is 1.721%. Cairo is regarded as the 19th largest city in the world, with a total population exceeding 16 million people, and among the world's most densely populated cities.

Although the government is trying to encourage migration to the newly irrigated land reclaimed from the desert, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as people moved to the cities in search of employment and higher standard of living. Most of the facilities and governmental institutes are centralized in Cairo.

Map of Egypt from elicrisko

Map of Egypt. Image by Flickr user elicrisko. CC BY

But Egypt is not Cairo

The concentration of population is in major urban areas in Egypt and Egypt is not only Cairo. People live in three major regions of the country: Cairo and Alexandria and elsewhere along the banks of the Nile - as well as small communities spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt. Below is a list for some of the most important cities in Egypt, and famous citizen voices within these areas.

Alexandria, with a population of 4.1 million, is the second-largest city in Egypt, and is the country's largest seaport. It is also an important tourist resort and an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez, another city in Egypt.

Recently Alexandria witnessed a terrible crime where Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian citizen from there, was allegedly tortured to death at the hands of two officers who wanted to search him under the emergency law. My name is Khaled Said [Ar] is a Facebook page that was created after his murder - and in no time became an important network for arranging silent sit-ins condemning the emergency law, and police brutality in Egypt.

El-Mahalla El-Kubra is a large industrial and agricultural city in Egypt, located in the middle of the Nile Delta on the western bank of the Damietta branch. It is known for its dominant textile industry.

It is home to the largest public sector Egyptian textile company, the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company , and during the calls for the first national disobedience in 2006; blogger Kareem El Behery [Ar] did a great job covering workers protests. Since then, he’s been popular with covering labor issues in Egypt in general, and El Mahalla El Kubra in particular.

Al-Arīsh is the capital and largest city (with 114,900 inhabitants) of the Egyptian governorate of North Sinai, lying on the Mediterranean coast of the Sinai peninsula which historically has been the center of conflict between various political factions. Al Arish is mostly inhabitant by Bedouins, a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group.

From Al Arish there is a blog entitled “Sinai where I am” [Ar], by Al Anany, that turned as a portal to the daily news and events happening in the city.

And also, not to forget the famous blogger, activist and poet Mosad Abu Fagr, who’s just been released after detention for three years because of his writings about the demands of Sinai Bedouins, expressing their life and seeking equal rights of citizenship.

Port Said. Image by Flickr user dolanh. CC BY-NC-SA

Port Said. Image by Flickr user dolanh. CC BY-NC-SA

Port Said is another major Egyptian city in north-east Egypt, near the Suez Canal, with an approximate population of 515,007.

One of the earliest websites that was opened, PortSaid online [Ar] has been launched to act as an important portal to follow news happening there, as well as a way for PortSaidians to follow job listings and events taking place in their city.

Lastly, Minya Governorate is one of the governorates of Upper Egypt. It is located approximately 245 km (152 miles) south of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile River, which flows north through the city - with population around 4.2 million.

Minya is dubbed by the locals “Bride of Upper Egypt”, in reference to its strategic location in Middle Egypt as a vital link between the north and the south of Egypt.

In Minya, our 3rd winning project “Women of Minya day by day” should take place. It is expected to amplify voices of working women in informal laborers, and shed light on the many difficulties and obstacles they face.

Representative or not?

Well, since there are no detailed study about the demography of the blogs in Egypt is available, it is still difficult to tell whether the blogs are representative to all ethnics and geo-locations within the country or not. However, no doubt the high concentration of population within Cairo, as well as the low Internet access rates in other cities - stay as an obstacle towards spreading the usage of citizen media evenly through out the whole country. Yet hopefully, with initiatives similar to Women of Mineya Day by Day seeing the light, the future of citizen media in Egypt would take a different route.


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