The Mubarak regime’s crackdown on the media — both the traditional, legacy press and the new, Internet-based social media (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) — is absolutely wrong and deplorable, but not surprising. As I mentioned in a FrumForum piece on Sunday, “journalists are an integral part of the news. And their reporting, especially today, has real-world political consequences.”
Those consequences involve giving voice to autonomous voices that dissent from the government or party line.
Journalists have always done this, of course. However, satellite-based cable television has dramatically spread the media’s reach and influence, and thereby given voice to millions of neglected people worldwide.
Likewise, mobile phones and Internet-based communication have dramatically democratized the media and empowered ordinary people.
In fact, without these new technologies and this new media, the uprising in Egypt probably never would have happened. After all, it was only after the Egyptian people first saw the drama unfold in Tunisia — and, in particular, after they saw the digital video of a Tunisian fruit vendor setting himself ablaze — that they took to the streets of Cairo.
And it is the media’s — and especially the television media’s — ongoing coverage of the dramatic protests in Egypt that has helped to sustain the revolutionary fervor that is now rocking Egypt and the Islamic world.
This is a good thing. The media, warts and all, is a democratizing and liberalizing influence. Tyrants and dictators know this, which is why they always try to suppress the media and to squelch freedom of speech.
Indeed, that’s why Mubarak shut down the Internet. And that’s why his thugs are now harassing and rounding up journalists. They know, as we should, that journalists are, through no fault of their own, political actors whose professional deeds have real-world political consequences.
That’s why we owe the journalists now on the ground in Egypt a sincere debt of gratitude for their excellent reporting. In a very real way, they are responsible for this promising, revolutionary moment.
And while I’m glad the Obama administration condemns the regime’s “campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo,” I would much prefer to see its words backed up by action.
The administration should start by pledging to cut off military aid to Egypt if the situation there is not quickly and peacefully resolved.
John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He writes and blogs for a variety of publications, including FrumForum, the American Spectator and The Daily Caller. Follow him at his personal blog, ResoluteCon.com, and on Twitter @JohnRGuardiano.