According to the group Reporters without Borders, the internet has been part of Egyptian society since the 2005 legislative elections. Many middle eastern countries lack transparency and candidness in sharing of information. Reporters without Borders says that in January alone, 31 legal cases were launched against bloggers and journalists.
Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights, says 2008 had been the worst year for freedom of expression since Egypt was declared a republic in 1952. But with the advancing ways of communicating across the internet, the authorities still struggle to keep undercover about their actions and their impact on ordinary people.
The outspoken Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas and Palestinian journalist Laila El Haddad both shared the minute details of their experience of custody, in two separate incidents, with fellow Twitter users.
In about 40 tweets, Wael Abbas managed to inform his readers of his day-long experience in a Cairo city centre police station, where he had gone to complain about an alleged assault by two men, one of them a police officer, but ended up being arrested himself. The number of his page followers increased dramatically during the day (11 April), adding around 300 new followers, as his friends re-tweeted his messages, spreading them around to reach more readers. Step by step the tweets gave an insight into what it is like to be in custody in Cairo.
On the other hand, 31- year-old Palestinian female journalist Laila El Haddad was travelling from Washington DC to Cairo on the way to her home which is the Gaza strip. But the Egyptian authorities wouldn’t allow her into the country. She twittered so that everyone could know what was happening to her. In the end she was sent back to the US.
Being in police custody in Egypt is not noted for being open to the public gaze, so earlier this month thousands of user of the micro-blog service Twitter were surprised to read updates, or “tweets”, from police cells.