After a month of tireless street protests and dozens of deaths, the citizens of Tunisia toppled the government today: President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali stepped down and fled the country after 23 years in power, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president and Arab nations are waiting with bated breath to see just what will come of today’s unprecedented events.
How did I first find out about today’s developments? Twitter. The first major news event I ever followed almost entirely through Twitter was the G8/G20 protests in Toronto. While reporters and citizens were wandering through the madness on the streets, live-tweeting photos and observations, a scan of news channels yielded talking heads and the same clips of a flaming cop car, or some douchebag smashing a Tim Hortons window. It was amazing how much better the coverage via Twitter was.
Today, it was amazing to read tweets — in real-time — from people living in Arab nations, sharing their hopes and feelings as developments unfolded:
Many were also as frustrated by the lack of mainstream media coverage as I was:
This is a REALLY BIG DEAL — and I feel extremely fortunate to be living in an era when people have the power to organize and distribute information as quickly as everything unfolded today. Other young colleagues and I often joke about having missed the golden age of journalism — when you might show up at work to find a plane ticket in your mail box, when you left an overnight bag at your desk just in case — but if I missed that, I’m pretty happy to be working as a journalist in this very exciting, rapidly-developing digital age.
UPDATE: Here is the WikiLeaks document that helped trigger protests in Tunisia.
So much to be said on this topic… Will blog on it again later.