Monday, October 10, 2011

"What Really Happened Last Night?"





The 24-hour news cycle, combined with the use of Twitter by journalists, brings the experience of reading the news a lot closer to that of being a reporter. The reader sitting at her computer, much like the journalist in the field, finds conflicting information everywhere, making it necessary to sift, weigh, and decide who to trust. This is even more the case when the events are violent, the scene chaotic, and the control of information very clearly political. Last night, I sat in the comfort of my apartment and tried to figure out what was going on a short cab ride away as reports started coming out about protests leading to violence. Here are a few of the things I read, a fragmented portrait of reality I constructed for myself from news reports and Twitter:




Sarah Carr: The march from the Cairo district of Shubra was huge, like the numbers on 28 January. In the front row was a group of men in long white bibs, “martyr upon demand” written on their chests. A tiny old lady walked among them, waving a large wooden cross: “God protect you my children, God protect you.”

Zeinobia: The rally was peaceful till Shubra tunnel where suddenly it was met by rocks hurled and gunshots in the air by some people “allegedly from locales!!” , nevertheless the rally continued but people were angry

Sarah Carr: At a traffic underpass at the end of Shubra Street, at around 6 pm, there was the sudden sound of what sounded like gunfire. Protesters at the front told those behind to stop - the march was under attack. Rocks rained down from left and right and from the bridge, underneath which protesters were taking shelter.

Wendell Steavenson: A few hours ago, in the early evening dark, I stood on the 6th of October Bridge and saw fires flaring up out of burning vehicles, arcs of red tracer from fired blanks, the whoosh and tumbling bounce of white-plumed tear gas, streaks of light made by Molotov cocktails, the crackling sparks of tasers, and revolving blue ambulance light.

David Kirkpatrick: Nada el-Shazly, 27, who was wearing a surgical mask to deflect the tear gas, said she came out because she heard state television urge “honest Egyptians” to turn out to protect the soldiers from Christian protesters, even though she knew some of her fellow Muslims had marched with the Christians to protest the military’s continued hold on power. “Muslims get what is happening,” she said. The military, she said, was “trying to start a civil war.”

Reem Abdellatif: What we are seeing in #Egypt is a clash between military & civilians, not Muslims and Copts.

Sarah Carr: Suddenly, there was a great surge of people moving back, and something strange happened. Two armored personnel carriers (APCs) began driving at frightening speed through protesters, who threw themselves out of its path. A soldier on top of each vehicle manned a gun, and spun it wildly, apparently shooting at random although the screams made it difficult to discern exactly where the sound of gunfire was coming from.

Sarah Sheffer: Egyptian state TV claimed that Coptic Christians initiated the attack, angering many who believe that the inaccurate state TV discourse will insight further violence.

Tony Karon: But, of course, the sectarian issue itself is one easily manipulated to create a specter of chaos -- and make the argument for Egypt to be ruled by a strong hand.

Issandr El Amrani: This marks the first time that the army has taken such an aggressive posture against a predominantly Christian protest, which will easily lead the framing of today’s events as the first time that the military chooses to kill protesting Christians.

Issandr El Amrani: Worrisome because state television has behaved thus far tonight much as it did during the 18 days of the Egyptian uprising this winter. In other words, it has deployed propaganda, unverifiable allegations, talk of “foreign agendas” and “outside hands”, and extremely partial reporting. It has repeatedly used sectarian language, with presenters referring to protestors as “the Copts” and using sentences such as “The Copts have killed two soldiers.” On top of this, the military cut off the live TV feeds of several satellite TV stations, including 25TV, al-Hurra, and at a later point al-Jazeera, reducing the independent reporting of an unfolding event. And most of all because TV presenters were urging Egyptians to “protect the army from the Copts.”

Mahmoud Salem: thugs are attacking the coptic hospital. REPORTERS go there NOW.

Sarach Carr: The Coptic Hospital tried its best to deal with the sudden influx of casualties. Its floors were sticky with blood and there was barely room to move among the wounded, the worried and the inconsolable. A man asked if we were press, and whether we’d like to film the morgue if we “were strong enough.”
Manal Hassan: alaa just told me that they got news that #EgArmy is confiscating photos from newspapers of the massacre today

Michael Hanna: Without being hyperbolic, this is the way civil wars start.

Amira Salah-Ahmed: Following dictator's style guide, egypt's rulers committing same atrocities as former regime. exact same images, only bloodier

Reem Abdellatif: Passed by #Coptic hospital on way to work, dozens of mourners. Women in black crying, screaming.

Tom Gara: Sectarian provocation in state media shows the army isnt like Mubarak, it is far more reckless. More incompetent, more dangerous.

MohHKamel: How come there isn't a single photo or video of a Copt with a gun? How come no one has seen or knows the names of the 3 soldiers?

Reem Abdellatif: Legally/logically speaking, army not allowed to shoot unless given OK from top. so what really happened last night?

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