Earlier this month, the April 6 Youth Movement staged a protest in front of the Egyptian Peoples Assembly calling for more political freedoms and an end to Egypt's restrictive “emergency law”, which might be renewed this year, and might be enforced as well by a new “Counter-Terrorism law” which is expected to be extremely repressive. The Egyptian security forces responded to the protesting citizens with a brutal violence, making a score of arrests and convictions.
Few days before the protest, more than 30 human rights and legal NGOs in Egypt announced The Front to Defend Egypt Protestors (FDEP) which aims to provide legal and informative support to the participants in peaceful demonstrations. Members of FDEP formed an Emergency team composed of Communication Unit, FDEP Lawyers, Provisions Committee, Researchers, Doctors and Translation Unit.
The main communication system between FDEP members was based online as the FDEP launched a new blog, posting updates and information about the detainees, and initiated Twitter hashtag (#EgyDefense) to tweet immediate news. The FDEP members published media reports on Flickr and Youtube platforms.
What happened was very interesting as the FDEP used an Emergency phone number to receive calls and text messages (SMS) from people participating in the protest. In that way, the SMS that were sent by the arrested protesters made their way to the FDEP Communication Unit, to social networking websites and to the lawyers who form a legal support unit to defend the daintiness.
This is one of the texts we got on 6 April:
I got arrested along with other 40 youth, and they attacked everybody and we are detained in a car garage beside the People Assembly [name of the sender]
Along the day, we were able to get the names of 92 detainees through cell phones and also determine their locations, and post the information online. Families of the detainees were calling the Emergency line to help us correcting the names of their relatives found on the list and to add more names. By the end of the day, and thanks to the crowd-sourced information, we documented 106 case of arrests.
FDEP lawyers were always posting on Twitter latest updates on the locations of the detainees and that helped mobilizing more and more lawyers to help the FDEP. Also, FDEB used Google maps to better determine the locations of the detainees.
The next days, the Communication unit supplied information to the Provisions Committee to bring food, drink and medications to the detainees, and to the Researches Unit to facilitate collecting testimonies from the released ones.
Here is an Illustration of how FDEP utilized online tools & digital devices to communicate with the detainees on April 6, to broadcast the information, and to facilitate task between FDEP units and members.