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Posted at 9:59 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Wael Ghonim: my message was manipulated by State TV

By Melissa Bell
wael ghonim
Egyptian Wael Ghonim, center, walks into Tahrir Square after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's televised statement to his nation Thursday. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP)

Within a week, Wael Ghonim has gone from folk hero/potential leader of the revolution to being accused of being a pawn of the government.

The 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager was one of the key organizers of the online campaign that sparked the first protests on Jan. 25. During the violence that followed, Ghonim was detained by Egyptian authorities and held for 12 days. After international pressure, Ghonim was released and embraced by the country. An emotional interview inspired a renewed vigor in the protests.

On Thursday, as rumors started circulating that President Hosni Mubarak would step down, Ghonim sent out celebratory messages on Twitter:

Revolution 2.0: Mission Accomplished #Jan25less than a minute ago via web

Other Egyptian bloggers urged Ghonim not to declare victory too soon and some of his most fervent fans chastised him for his statements. But the real problem came later that night when Ghonim's prediction did not come true.

After Mubarak's speech, Egyptian state television reported that Ghonim had encouraged the demonstrators to leave Tahrir Square and that the demands had been met.

Angry messages and rumors flew around Cairo that Ghonim was betraying the movement. Only Ghonim had not made those statements after the speech. The New York Times reports, "Egyptian state television distorted the activist's earlier statements, reporting that he had made them after Mr. Mubarak spoke."

While Egyptian state television has made strides to report more on the protests, this action suggests the State TV is still working under directions of the current government. It also shows the power of television in Egypt: one interview inspired the protests; one interview threatened to disrupt them.

On Friday, Ghonim posted a manifesto of sorts on Facebook entitled "A full explanation of my position and an answer to all questions." In it, he apologizes for not being savvy with the media and that his comments were misunderstood. He also reiterates his discomfort with a leadership role.

"I said from the beginning with all my heart I'm not a symbol and I'm not a hero and I am not speaking officially on behalf of the people," Ghonim wrote.

He vowed not to speak to the media but rather return to the online space in which he started to communicate directly to people.

He followed the message up with two more directed at Egyptian and world leaders:

Dear President Mubarak your dignity is no longer important, the blood of Egyptians is. Please leave the country NOW. #Jan25less than a minute ago via web

Dear Western Governments, You've been silent for 30 years supporting the regime that was oppressing us. Please don't get involved now #Jan25less than a minute ago via web

By Melissa Bell  | February 11, 2011; 9:59 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Thomas Edison gets Google Doodle-ed
Next: Mubarak steps down; Egypt erupts in celebration

Comments

I feel moved that Egypt held its ground till FREEDOM returned.I salute those that paid the supreme price for this to happen.Other African Nations and the rest of the world were Tyrants prevail should study the proccess and procedures that hearlded this historical moment.Nigeria for example has been under terrible hand for 50years.The time to say NO should be yesterday.Am done.

Posted by: chubam | February 11, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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