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>People Power: now Algeria


BY PET MELLIZA, The Beekeeper

Social networks in the world wide web (WWW) is proving to be a powerful medium of information that gives a new twist to what “socializing” means. 

We thought the word means just “pasosyal-sosyal lang”, the sort of association done by people to kill time or fight off boredom, the way matronas converge on hotel lounges to trade gossips. Pardon this sexist statement; the same also holds true for men who are also prone to trivia.

Last Friday, February 11, we got a text message from media colleague Peter Jimenea who forwarded to me what he got from Alex Vidal in the U.S. announcing Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepping down, ending 30 years of authoritarian rule. He toppled from widespread protests, when millions of Egyptians swarmed the streets outpouring their unarmed outrage that, incidentally, forced the army into catatonic  inaction.

At the initial stages of the protests, the Mubarak dictatorship shut down broadcast stations and newspapers. However, it failed in its obvious purpose of isolating Egypt from the rest of the world so that the dictator could do whatever he pleased, the way he used to in the past 30 years when everybody’s lips were sealed in the face of repression and exploitation.

The conventional media outlets –TV, radio and print – were vulnerable to state 

control.However, the new entrants in the league like cell phone text messaging and internet have proven themselves resilient and reliable to break the barriers of isolation. The whole world was able to know, even see with its own eyes, unfolding events, blow by blow, in Egypt, from such e-vehicles as Face Book and Twitter.

Egypt’s “people power” differs from that of the Philippine’s “EDSA I” when Filipino demonstrators backed a military mutiny and toppled the dictator Marcos in February 1986, and EDSA II when hordes of protesters drove Pres. Erap Estrada out of Malacañang in January 2001. 

Mobile phones and the internet were unheard of in the Philippines in the ‘80s.

With the Marcos dictatorship’s grip on the media, people relied on the “alternative” and “mosquito” press for information. The first ”mosquito” to sting the dictatorship was the Ang Pahayagang Malaya of the late Joe Burgos. Other than that, the “most reliable” means of relaying information was the alternative medium of newsletter, handbills and pamphlets.

Marcos’ stranglehold on the  conventional press crumbled at the start of EDSA I,when Radio Veritas aired live the call of Jaime Cardinal Sin on people to go to
the streets to support military mutineers led by defence minister Juan Ponce Enrile from being crushed  by the pro-Marcos forces.

Erap did not control the press. The conventional press combined with text messaging in spawning the popular uprising EDSA 2 in January 2001, were text messages urging people to stage EDSA 2 by converging at the EDSA shrine in Mandaluyong. 

That combination effective rallying the people and in driving the president out. It also inspired Supreme Court chief justice Hilarion Davide to invent the doctrine of “constructive resignation”.

The Egyptian model is akin to that of Tunisia, another North African state, whose dictator, Bin Ali was forced to step down last month. The dictator, like 

Mubarak, also shut down broadcast and print outlets but could not the www which kept Tunisians and the world abreast of developments in the popular uprising.

Lately, another peole, the Algerians, like fellow Arabs in Egypt and Tunisia, have broken the taboo; they ruptured the culture silence and rallied to fight poverty, unemployment, political repression, and corruption, incidentally, a similar brew that leads Filipinos to  despair and anger. 

The internet and mobile phones, pardon this reiteration, proved indispensable in uniting the people against the military governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

The Algerian protest flared up in December 2010 and continues to this date; the fervor of the protesters intensifies with the success of the Egyptian in driving out their own dictator. 

The Algerian model, however, has some differences. At the core of its protest 

movement is a conscious and organized force, the Algerian Islamic Salvation 

Front which won the 1991 elections but which the military junta annulled. 

That triggered the formation of an armed resistance, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. Egypt and Tunisia had no clear organized armed resistance. Algeria has. And that makes developments in this country more interesting to watch.


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