Viewing cable 09CAIRO544,


— (C) Egypt’s bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in broadening the scope of acceptable political and social discourse, and self-expression.

— (C) Bloggers‘ discussions of sensitive issues, such as sexual harassment, sectarian tension and the military, represent a significant change from five years ago, and have
influenced society and the media.

— (C) The role of bloggers as a cohesive activist movement has largely disappeared, due to a more restrictive political climate, GOE counter-measures, and tensions among bloggers.

— (C) However, individual bloggers have continued to work to expose problems such as police brutality and corporate malfeasance.

¶2. (C) Comment: The government generally allows bloggers wide latitude in posting material critical of the GOE. Exceptions to this policy are bloggers who directly insult President Mubarak or Islam, and the government has arrested and jailed bloggers who have crossed these red-lines. The GOE has also arrested activists, such as XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, who have used blogging to organize and support protests (refs A and C).
Activists are increasingly writing blogs to advance their political aims. Contacts accurately point out that bloggers have ceased to function as a cohesive activist movement. It is noteworthy that bloggers did not play a significant role in the most recent example of mass cyber-activism — the April 6, 2008 strike orchestrated through Facebook (ref G).

The Current State of Blogging

¶3. (C) Egypt has an estimated 160,000 bloggers who write in Arabic, and sometimes in English, about a wide variety of topics, from social life to politics to literature. One can view posts ranging from videos of alleged police brutality (ref B), to comments about the GOE’s foreign policy, to complaints about separate lines for men and women in government offices distributing drivers‘ licenses.
One NGO contact estimated for us that a solid majority of bloggers are between 20 and 35 years old, and that about 30 percent of blogs focus on politics. Blogs have spread throughout the population to become vehicles for a wide range of activists, students, journalists and ordinary citizens to express their views on almost any issue they choose. As such, the blogs have significantly broadened the range of topics that Egyptians are able to discuss publicly.

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