The “Citizen-Journalist” Is a Joke, Especially in Cairo, Where They Need Citizen-Journalists

A friend of mine who is a well-known blogger rejects the idea of the “citizen-journalist.” People who bake in their own homes aren’t called “citizen bakers,” she says. In the months following Mubarak’s ouster, the Gray Ladies of the world attributed the uprising, at least in part, to some sort of critical mass that was reached in the Twittersphere and an ill-defined vanguard of citizen-journalists. Their significance before the uprising or revolution or whatever it was came largely from the failures of the Egyptian media, which was controlled by two types of graying men (not women). Regime stalwarts protected their respective fiefdoms, and tycoons guarded their businesses from government meddling. In the opening that followed, citizen journalists’ relevance was either overshadowed or of genuinely less importance as television and newspapers starting opening up. The media scene was vibrant for a country living in the shadow of autocracy. Likewise, citizen journalists would be fooling you if they said they had no agenda. They weren’t just the keffiyeh-wearing, chain-smoking types you would be led to believe. There were plenty of Islamist, pro-Army, and other illiberal cyber-activists out there. This was seemingly true of the ideologies behind different Egyptian papers. Now, privately-owned media is pretty much a jingoistic racket, and there are few voices to undeservingly defend the opposition which was, without a doubt, illiberal. We’ll see if the “citizen journalists” come back, or if they or their cause was a farce that everyone fell for.

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