London: Mobile phones are the best way of keeping democracy alive in repressive regimes, says a political scientist.
"In Egypt, Google`s marketing manager would have never managed to mobilise so many demonstrations without social media," writes Indra de Soysa, political scientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The unrest in the Arab world was sparked off by a revolution in Tunisia in December 2010, which successfully dislodged the authoritarian regime of its long serving president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. Protests then spread to many other countries of the region, including Yemen, Libya and Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak was forced to abdicate after 30 years in power.
De Soysa says the start of the latest wave of revolutionary unrest in the Middle East and north Africa began with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
"TV is especially bad for human rights, because the government can feed propaganda to the population. Internet and mobile phones have the opposite effect. And social media is different because it gives people free access to a channel of communication," de Soysa says.
"The authorities cannot monitor what people read on the Internet, and society becomes more transparent," writes Soysa in an article `The Blog vs. Big Brother` in the International Journal of Human Rights.
De Soysa points to the many eyewitnesses who have sent pictures from mobile phones to large media organisations such as the BBC and CNN, according to the university.
"The authorities can no longer get away with attacking their own people. In Burma (Myanmar), the authorities can still shoot a man in the street, and get away with it. But there are beginning to be fewer and fewer countries where that is still the case," he says.
First Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 15:32