Egyptian blogger Amr Magdi says the era of fear is over [Interview]

by مي اليان
Oct 30, 2018 in Miscellaneous

Amr Magdi is a young Egyptian writer who named his blog Tartaket Keyboard after the Egyptian slang term for the clicking sounds made by typing on a computer keyboard. A recent graduate of medical school, he is now studying for a master's degree in psychology. Before obtaining his first degree, he worked at several websites, including Al-Jazeera Net and Al-Jazeera Talk, and is now interested in political research.

Magdi has been blogging since 2006, mostly about politics, current events and his take on them. He has always used his real name. About that choice, he says: “Since day one I used it in my blog, I'm not afraid. Fear is what we want to break down, overcome and conquer.” He told IJNet that he knows at least three bloggers who do not use their real names on their blogs, but he thinks that “the era of fear is gone forever” and that “the latest demonstrations in Egypt are mainly for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” He worries about some activists who have disappeared or were detained, such as Google employee Wael Ghoneim, released on February 7.

When IJNet asked Magdi where he was during the latest demonstrations, he said that he was like thousands of others: “We watched Al-Jazeera and Al Arabia and other news channels while having meal or drinking tea in coffee shops close to Tahrir Square, then [we] went back to the square. Sometimes I went to friends’ homes closer to Tahrir Square and blogged from there. I also kept in touch with Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera Live, which contacted me as an activist and blogger for commentary.” Meanwhile, he noted, state-run media was in “a complete coma, in complete darkness.”

On the Internet Blackout

About the government blackout of the Internet and its impact on bloggers, he said: “I felt as if we returned to the first ice age. It didn’t only impact freedom of speech but the government also lost several billion Egyptian pounds in a few days.”

He kept in contact with people working at Al-Jazeera Talk via telephone, providing them with news reports they published immediately. “Of course, I had about 10 videos I wanted to upload on YouTube but I wasn’t able to. Because of the Internet blackout that went on for several days, the videos became of lesser relevance or value.”

Magdi believes the Internet blackout ultimately had a positive impact, driving activists into the streets instead of sitting behind their computer screens.

He made good use of his twitter account during these latest events and also noticed that many bloggers were using it now more than their traditional blogs. He did say, however, that most Egyptians still use Facebook more than Twitter.

Some reports say that Egyptians on Facebook number between 2.5 million and 4 million people and that more than a quarter of Egyptians are connected to the Internet. Some groups, such as Kolona Khaled Said(We are all Khaled Said; named after a young Egyptian who died in custody), have about 400,000 members. Egypt is considered one of the most active countries using Facebook. He confirmed that this has significantly helped to convey ideas to other young people.

The growing momentum for public freedom

Magdi said that since 2005, the opposition has been gaining ground, thanks to what he says are “brave” opposition and independent newspapers as well as human rights non-government organizations (NGOs). Many people have paid a very high price for their efforts, including imprisonment, detention and prosecution.

Magdi is one of the Egyptian bloggers who believes that after demonstrations started on January 25, “no one dares to stop freedom of opinion and speech in Egypt.” He predicts that reform in the state and public media will soon follow. He added, “We have witnessed a major change in language used in the public and official media in Egypt since last Friday [February 4]. We are still fighting for freedom of opinion and speech. The Egyptian revolution is mainly for public freedom, specifically freedom of opinion and expression.”

Magdi argues that blogging is critical, because “you build a blog to express yourself, so it is your right to say what you want to say, any way you want to say it – even if your blog is about current events, as long as you do not call it a news website.” He also wants bloggers to open their minds to other people’s opinions, since some delete comments readers post on their blogs, which he finds a contradiction of the principles of freedom of speech and expression.

The interview originally appeared in IJNet's Arabic edition, you can read it here.