In Cairo, Social Media Tells a Different Story Than Official News Outlets

In Cairo, social media depictions of violence clash with official narrative, and again, social media gives a voice to the potentially voiceless.

On Sunday October 9, 2011 at least 24 people were killed and over 200 people were wounded during a Christian demonstration over an attack on a church in Upper Egypt. Egypt’s President Essam Sharaf hinted that the violence had been driven by a foreign plot to increase tension in the area. However, social media users who were witness to the violence are telling a different story. According to an article from the BBC, Sarah Carr, a blogger based in Cairo, took to Twitter to give updates about what she was seeing. One tweet noted: “My vehicles deliberately crushed protesters using APCs, shot at them at random as they drove at them. This is what happened tonight”.

Later, Ms. Car wrote in independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-You that:

“Suddenly, there was a great surge of people moving back, and something strange happened. Two armoured personnel carriers began driving at frightening speed through protesters, who threw themselves out of its path. A soldier on top of each vehicle manned a gun, and spun it wildly, apparently shooting at random although the screams made it difficult to discern exactly where the sound of gunfire was coming from.

It was like some brutal perversion of the military show the armed forces put on for the 6th of October celebration three days before. The two vehicles zigzagged down the road outside Maspiro underneath the 6th of October Bridge and then back in synchronicity, the rhythm for this particular parade provided by the “tac tac tac” of never-ending gunfire, the music the screams of the protesters they drove directly at.

And then it happened: an APC mounted the island in the middle of the road, like a maddened animal on a rampage. I saw a group of people disappear, sucked underneath it. It drove over them.”

Ms. Carr’s account does not exist in isolation. Blogger and journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy notes that there is visual evidence to support her account. Further, a lawyer named Hani Bushra posted live updates on his Twitter and Facebook accounts which recount what he saw Sunday night. These accounts include the following:

I stayed with the [police] units and observed the following:

1) Four bodies in the lobby of an apartment building that the Egyptian ambulances could not carry because the blood was everywhere and because some of the bodies were in pieces [...] 2) The members of the [police] were armed with live ammunition, and the order was given in front of me. 3) One of the [police] companions told me that he beat senseless a Christian man he arrested because it was said that this man was carrying a gun and shooting the people. 4) The army and not the police were the ones attacking the protesters. In fact, the police was not doing anything.”

It is clear that the story on social media is significantly different than official outlets, securing Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites place as key outlets during times of crisis.

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