Gamal Mubarak + social media = true

In an apparent attempt to garner popularity among Egypt’s internet-savvy youth, the thought-to be heir to the Egyptian presidency, Gamal Mubarak, has jumped on the social media bandwagon, launching his own fan page on Facebook and an interactive discussion forum for young Egyptians that is to be broadcasted widely through various social media platforms.
Snapshot of the website

BEIRUT, August 12, 2009 (MENASSAT) —Over the past couple of years, Egyptian activists have increasingly turned to the Internet as a tool to expose the wrong-doings of national authorities and mobilize support for their causes. In 2007, Egyptian blogger and human rights activist Wael Abbas uploaded the infamous mobile phone clip showing a microbus driver being tortured and sodomized with an iron stick by two police officers. The incident caused an uproar among Egyptian civil society and international human rights groups and the two police men were handed rare prison sentences in a landmark trial in November 2007.

Last year, a Facebook group calling for nation-wide strikes on April 6, 2008 in protest of stalled wages and soaring commodity prices attracted more than 70,000 members and ended up causing concern among the Egyptian authorities to the extent that the administrator of the Facebook group, Esra’a Abdel Fattah, was arrested and temporarily detained.

In essence, Internet-savvy activists have not proved popular with the Egyptian authorities and arrests, intimidation, and harassment of bloggers is commonplace in Egypt these days.

But recent developments suggest that some high-ranking members in the Egyptian administration-- in an ironic twist in the saga-- have started to rely on the same outlets as their archenemies to get their message out to the masses.

Take Gamal Mubarak for example, the son of Egypt’s 81-year-old ruler Hosni Mubarak, who is expected to be heir to the Egyptian presidency. In what looks like a clear bid to boost his presidential campaigning efforts and credibility among Egypt’s youth, Gamal Mubarak or “Jimmy” as he goes by locally, has launched his own Facebook site and and his very own online discussion forum for young Egyptians, “Sharek,” which means “participate” in Arabic, in collaboration with the General Secretary of the Policy Committee of the National Democratic Party (NDP).

The open forum, which goes by the slogan “open dialogue for the Egyptian youth with Gamal Mubarak,” is premiering today, August 12, and invites young Egyptians to send in their questions and participate in discussions with the man who might be leading their country in the near future.

In the first episode, Gamal is reportedly to discuss topics such as the challenges and opportunities faced by today’s youth with show participants.

Sharek is being heavily advertised on various social media outlets and viewers can currently follow the show via Facebook and RSS. Soon, fans will also be able to view episodes on Sharek’s own YouTube channel and access photos from the program via the photo-sharing site Flickr.

Curiousness over the content and the initiative in general was building up on the micro-blogging tool Twitter on Wednesday before the airing of the first episode. What will people ask? What kind of “hashtag” should be used for the event? Perhaps #jimmySH or #jimmyFB or #GamalSH?

As to whether “Sharek” is truly the “open dialogue” it claims to be. Well, we shall soon see.