Internet finds voice as citizens cry freedom

Stratis G. Camatsos writes: July 1956: Writers, journalists, and students started a series of intellectual forums, called the Petőfi Circles, examining the problems facing Hungary. Later, in October 1956, university students in Szeged snubbed the official communist student union, which led to students of the Technical University to compile a list of 16-points containing several national policy demands. Days after, approximately 20,000 protesters convened organised by the writer’s union, which grew to 200,000 in front of the Parliament, all chanting the censored patriotic poem, the “National Song”.

December 1964: The Free Speech Movement (FSM) at the University of California at Berkeley was started by students who had participated in Mississippi’s ‘Freedom Summer’, and it provided an example of how students could bring about change through organisation. Later, in February 1965, the United States begins bombing North Vietnam. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organised marches on the Oakland Army Terminal, the departure point for many troops bound for Southeast Asia. In April 1965, between 15,000 and 25,000 people gathered at the capital, a turnout that surprised even the organisers.

December 2010: Mohamed Bouazizi proclaimed that there was police corruption and ill treatment in Tunisia. This sparked revolutions well into 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt, a civil war in Libya resulting in the fall of its government; civil uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman, and less in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

The parallels between all three of these iconic uprisings are that the protests have shared techniques of civil response in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies. All of them were based on a common ideal or symbol that led the way for organisation. All were themselves the epitome of the principle of freedom of expression.

The differences between the three rest with the tools used to mobilise and organise. As the former two were based on word of mouth and media such as newspapers and TV, the latter one saw the largest uprising to have used the social media to communicate and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship. It was truly a behemothic moment for the internet, as its potential was finally reached. [Continue reading…]

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