“Don’t know what is more depressing; having to defend #adelimam
or seeing a lot of people in front of court asking for his head”
In recent news, famous Egyptian comedian Adel Imam was convicted on Feb ‘2, 2012 of using his films and plays as a medium to defame the Islamic faith. Due to the nature and sensitivity around this case, it naturally transitioned into a rapid increase in buzz across the Social Media Milieu.
One of the targeted productions was the movie “Morgan Ahmed Morgan” and the play “Al Zaeem” (“The Leader”), even though the aforementioned had been approved by the Censor Board prior to release. During the course of his acting career, which consisted of over a 100 productions, the 71-year old Egyptian satirically illustrated his country’s political and social landscape. Unfortunately for Adel Imam this resulted in his objection being rejected on April 24th, after which a fine of 1000 Egyptian pounds and a three-month prison sentence were actioned. Consequently an intellectual uproar followed, which could mainly be attributed to the fact that the blow could no longer be cushioned and protected after Mubarak’s regime was repudiated. Hence a heated debate followed surrounding the suppressing cultural, artificial and social freedom of Egypt.
A sample size of 9851 posts was the basis for this week’s Buzz-Report surrounding Adel Iman, in which we took a closer look at the discussions related to the caseon various social media channels within the Middle East. The research was conducted between the 31st of January and the 26th of April 2012. As graphically represented below, the vast majority of buzz occurring on social media clustered around February 2nd and April 24th – respectively, the day of the sentence and the court’s final decision to reject the objection.
The bulk of results were mainly gathered from Twitter, in addition to the results captured from message boards, forums and online news media outlets, wherein most of the users expressed a negative sentiment regarding the verdict of Adel Imam. Voices from the film and entertainment industry came together to support him in the struggle for freedom of speech, this was done by means of petitions such as: “The Front of Creativity”. A group of independent writers and filmmakers vowed not to keep silence until the sentence against Imam was revoked.
In addition to the subjective opinion of some users, plenty of posts shared information about the sentence. Retweets emphasized the users’ agreement, for example: “Famous actor, Adel Imam, sentenced to three months in jail for defaming Islam http://goo.gl/kIFz0 #Egypt” (37 retweets, 4 favourite).
But more than the half of all posts were in reference to objective information, for instance news articles, including a short statement of the user’s sentiment towards the verdict. Surprisingly, just a few posts displayed support for the verdict itself.
Sentiment Analysis was broken down into three categories, in which the majority related the news around the verdict of Adel Imam to political issues which went beyond the realm of the case itself. Approximately one-fourth of all posts were a call for action to support Adel Imam, whilst only a small number of users (10%) either avoided the topic or claimed the verdict was fair.
This was further segregated into those who support the verdict, which made up a 30% share and those who believe that Egypt has more detrimental issues to be concerned about (70%), such as the current political and social situation.
However as previously mentioned and indicated below, the vast majority of users supported Adel Imam (54%) and could not fathom the accusation against him, irrespective of whether they liked the actor as a person or not. In addition a few posts (13%) acknowledged that Imams work is imperative in order for Egyptian society to accurately see a reflection, this resulted in 33% of user posts calling for protests against the verdict.
A large percentage of posts connected the case to a higher political issue. Politically interested users discussed Imams relationship to Mubarak, accused the Muslim Brotherhood, or compared the trial to the case of Sawiris, who was accused for blasphemy after having tweeted cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse wearing conservative Muslim attire. Furthermore, several comments related the trial to a wider context, including the political future of Egypt, the issues regarding freedom of speech and the combination of state and religion or the rising power of Islamists.
Predominantly conversation in Arabic surrounding the discussion itself got a powerful political spin, this was seen when Author Alaa Al-Aswany revealed his own indecision towards the case and asked the Egyptian presidential candidate ‘Abolfotoh’ about his position regarding the Adel Imam case, which was retweeted over 290 times.
In response Dr. Abolfotoh stated that an individual should not have the right to offend Islam. Nevertheless he added that a trial should be the last step after a fundamental discussion. This posts was retweeted more than 420 times:
Similarly, Amre Moussa, a competitor in the Egyptian presidential election, gave voice to the trial (retweeted more than 70 times) mentioning that laws and rules should be modified, ergo more flexible.
In conclusion, this case demonstrated the tremendous impact social media can have on politics. Adel Imam was released and found not guilty. Could this be a sign for further political developments in Egypt?
The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various Social Media platforms. This explicit search was conducted about the verdict for Adel Imam, covering the Middle East. The mentioned posts and comments were captured in both English and Arabic from the 31st of January to the 26th of April 2012. The keyword for the search was “Adel Imam” in different spelling variations and hashtags in both Arabic and English and was afterwards checked manually.
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