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Egypt’s Generational Split Over Freedom of Expression

February 1, 2016
A protester at the Press Syndicate in Cairo in 2016 (Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

A video of a prank showing TV reporter Shady Abu Zaid and actor Ahmed Malek (both in their twenties) handing police conscripts inflated condom-balloons in Tahrir Square last week went viral on social media almost immediately after it was posted on Facebook. Less than 48 hours after the video was made available online, it had clocked in nearly 2 million views, with the number continuing to rise rapidly. The controversial video drew mixed reactions from Egyptians, highlighting a widening generational split over the government’s increased repression in recent months. Embittered by an intensifying security crackdown that has targeted dissenters of all stripes (including secular activists who led the revolution five years ago), many young activists said they enjoyed seeing the security forces lampooned in the video. Describing the prank as “hilarious,” they hailed the video’s creators as “bold” and “courageous.” “Shady was able to do what many in Egypt today are incapable of doing: He has broken free from the fear that has kept most of us silent since June 30,” said Ibrahim Gamal Eldin, a young graduate of the American University in Cairo. Meanwhile, many in Egypt’s older generation…

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