1. Downfall of the President - done
2. Dissolution of Parliament - done
3. Ending the state of emergency
4. Changing the constitution
5. Release of all political detainees
6. Trial of all those responsible for corruption
7. Foundation of a civilian government
This Wednesday, on live television, Hosni Mubarak stood trial for murdering protestors during the January revolution in Egypt. It's a surprise for many Egyptians, who expect little from the new military government and who deeply mistrust Egypt’s television media. Only two weeks ago, revolutionary newspaper Gurnal accused “newspaper and television chairs” of having “exulted the tyrant, justified his actions, lied to the people for many long years, accused the Egyptian people of treason and brokerage throughout this noble revolution, and played a central role in the protection of the tyrant and his entourage”.
But institutional news isn’t the only news. The fact I am able to quote Gurnal (written and published by an apartmentful of students between 18 and 21 years old, distributed by hand) suggests that lo-fi Cairene voices already carry further than they know. The editors of TahrirDocuments.org, have been gathering and translating radical Egyptian pamphlets, leaflets, zines and street flyers, including the now-famous practical guide “How to Revolt”.
Tahrir Square’s revolutionaries have set new standards for the Egyptian press, and this may be one of the reasons for the trial going public. Unscripted video often means that there is a new deal. The Mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, recently filmed himself driving a tank over someone’s luxury car, to take a stand against illegal parking. In New Jersey, ultra-conservative kid “journalist” James O’Keefe is taking down leftist American public services (National Public Radio, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood) with hidden camera investigations where he poses as various nefarious types: a pimp in need of advice, a Russian drug dealer seeking Medicare, and ... a Muslim philanthropist.
Live footage tends to be revolutionary footage. In 1989, the first moments of an much-needed coup d'etat were broadcast to every household in Romania, as Nicolae Ceauçescu’s presidential address met with boos and whistles. Three days later, the court and firing squad had done their work.
Mubarak’s trial will move more slowly; unlike Ceauçescu, Mubarak actually has lawyers, one of whom claims that the ex-leader died in 2004 and has been replaced by an imposter. Egyptians will be watching Egyptian State TV, the only Egyptian network with access to the courtroom.
The rest of the world can stream it here.
Photo: Tahrir Square Banner: "The Legitimate Demands of the 25th of January Revolution", courtesy of TahrirDocuments.org