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Working paper

Localization of the News and Urban Unrest: A Media Usage and Protest Location Survey in Cairo

Hassanpour N.
How does disruption of communication effect political unrest? In search for an answer, we examine the news media consumption behavior among Cairo residents in relation to their protest activity during the 18-day Egyptian uprising of 2011. Based on a survey on protest locations and media usage conducted in Cairo, we confirm a significant disparity in the modes of news consumption between steadfast protesters and those who abstained from the protests. Taking the trauma caused by the sudden and ubiquitous censorship of media during the protests as a temporal marker, the survey depicts the approximate dynamics of protest location and media usage in four phases of the Egyptian uprising. We show that dispersion of the protests greatly increased during the first day of the media shutdown on January 28, and that during the second phase of the protests and onwards local news communication between the respondents and their immediate social network neighbors effectively fueled the mobilization. While the nonparticipants mostly used centralized news outlets, including satellite television, the most ardent protesters relied heavily on their local social network for receiving updates on the events.