By DANA LIEBELSON
Earlier this week, when POGO asked a group of visiting college students if any of them ran their own political blogs, half put their hands up. When the students were asked if they used Facebook and Twitter for political activism, they all raised their hands.
As you might have guessed, these were not your average twenty-somethings—they were young Egyptians who participated in and witnessed the so-called ‘Twitter Revolution’ in Egypt. They visited POGO as part of a week-long study tour through the U.S. organized by Internews Network.
With the help of a real-time translator, POGO staff spoke to the students—most of whom are aspiring journalists—about blogging, accountability, and the role of independent watchdogs in the democratic process.
“I think blogs like yours are so valuable,” POGO National Security Fellow, Ben Freeman, told the students. “They shine through the government propaganda, and aren’t funded by million-dollar lobbyists.”
One student pointed out that before the revolution, blogs couldn’t cover religious or political issues. Once, when he tried to discuss a controversial religious Facebook page with a professor at school, he was told “not to mention such things again.” But according to the students, much of that has changed since the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
“Now, there’s no censorship of the Internet. Things are better and people know they have rights,” said another student. “Even the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has a Facebook page.”
POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury told the students that Egypt’s new government now faces many of the issues POGO grapples with in the U.S., like undue influence of special interests on the political process and policy, and freedom of information.
“Democracy takes work, of course,” said Canterbury. “But you make Egypt’s future look very bright.”
Several of the students were also active in public policy, running for political office at their universities or working on local city coalitions to ensure communities have basic resources, like bread and gas.
They joked that none of them were members of Egypt’s “couch party”—the sect of the population that sits on the couch, and doesn’t participate in politics.
“We made the revolution happen” said a student. POGO was inspired.
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Fellow.
Image via Flickr user Jonathan Rashad.