In a country where opposition historically brought oppression, even a moderate loosening of the autocratic controls on dissent has not kept an underground movement from forming in the blogosphere. Egypt has allowed for multi-party elections for the first time in decades and has even permitted some limited criticisms and demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak. However, in the growing Egyptian blogging community, the gloves come off and the real criticisms flow freely:
Baheyya is Egyptian, pillories President Hosni Mubarak and heaps scorn on his regime daily. But this fiery dissident who says aloud what others don’t dare to think has no face: Baheyya is a blog.
In an Egyptian presidential campaign that has failed to generate much enthusiasm, one of the hottest debates is taking place online in the country’s burgeoning political blogosphere.
“In every normal election, people have their eyes trained on the result: who wins, who loses, and how things will change. In this election, however, we all know Hosni Mubarak is going to ‘win’ barring some miraculous deus ex machina,” writes Baheyya. …
Her identity is shrouded in mystery and the subject of much speculation among the blogging community but her diatribes have earned a cult albeit restricted following.
In a country where most major newspapers are state-owned or affiliated to a party, the Internet is offering an unprecedented freedom and platform for an increasingly bold opposition to the regime.
The blogosphere offers enough anonymity for those who want it so that they can speak freely about their political frustrations. So far, this has not resulted in the kind of recriminations seen against Iranian bloggers, but the Iranians hardly have wanted to give the impression that they want free and open elections anyway. Mubarak faces more pressure along those lines, and he appears genuinely interested in some change. His effort to push for multi-party elections surprised people earlier this year, when it was widely considered an effort to get in front of a democratization wave while maintaining his power and legitimacy.
The result of Mubarak’s changes have disappointed some who hoped for a more complete transformation of Egyptian politics. After so many years of political repression, it could be that the electorate does not trust Mubarak to remain true to his word not to retaliate against criticism. The campaign appears to reflect that reluctance; no great debates have taken place, and even the demonstrations that have occurred do not seem very noteworthy or effective. Only in the anonymity of the blogosphere have Egyptians allowed themselves the luxury of free political speech — but whether people have read their on-line protests is another question entirely.
In this case, we hope the revolution will indeed be blogged.