For the past four months, millions of Algerians have been hitting the streets of cities and villages across the country, demanding change. Protesters have already succeeded in toppling the country’s long-time president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but they are far from finished.
Their next target is nothing less than a comprehensive dismantling of the ruling system. Their rallying cry: #Yetne7aw_ga3, “They must all go!”
A key catalyst of the protests has been the emergence of a new generation: tech-savvy, politically conscious and hungry for change. Growing up in a context of rising inequality and limited opportunities, and faced with a moribund official media ecosystem – long closed to any dissenting voices – millions of young Algerians have had to forge their own alternative spaces, principally on social media platforms.
Leading the charge, a wave of YouTube pioneers, operating from their bedrooms and their neighbourhoods, have posted videos chronicling – with wit, irreverence and candour – the daily realities and tribulations of their lives and those of their fellow Algerians.
Boasting high production values and delivered in a colloquial idiom, these videos stand in marked contrast to the stuffy, crude offerings of official media. As Anes Tina, one of Algeria‘s most prominent YouTubers, told The Listening Post “…we reflected people’s daily realities and we did so in the language of the street…”
We also spoke to Raja Meziane, a Prague-based musician whose political outspokenness, both in her music and her public comments, led to her being blacklisted by the country’s media establishment. Facing enormous pressure to toe the official line, she found herself forced into exile, both physically and artistically. As she told us, “YouTube became the only avenue for me to express myself…”
For much of the past decade, people like Raja Meziane and Anes Tina have produced hard-hitting work tackling social injustice, corruption and inequality. Many of their videos were squarely and explicitly aimed at the super-rich elite – living it up in obscene opulence with the country’s oil revenues while the majority of the population struggled to meet basic needs.
Their bravery earned them the respect and devotion of millions of followers and the opprobrium and condemnation of the ruling system and its supporters. Today, their impact – and that of YouTube and other social media platforms more broadly – in shaping the political awareness and aspirations of young Algerians, cannot be underestimated. Myriad slogans deployed by the protesters echo, visually and thematically, the messages of their social media idols.
Fittingly enough, and bringing things full circle, the protests have themselves elicited countless responses on YouTube and elsewhere, inspiring a new generation of artists and creators. Unsurprisingly, Raja Meziane and Anes Tina have been at the forefront of the artistic response to the revolution, producing videos which celebrated the protesters and articulated their grievances and demands.
These videos, whether Meziane’s Allo Le System and Toxic, or Anas Tina’s No You Can’t, have since garnered tens of millions of views in the space of a few weeks, offering for many an unofficial soundtrack for the fledgling revolution.
Whether the protesters will succeed in securing the radical overhaul they demand remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: having been instrumental in creating the conditions for the current revolution, Algeria’s YouTube pioneers have no intention of sitting out the next chapter. As Raja Meziane put it: “We are all in the same boat … I have no option but to side with our people.”
Raja Meziane – musician
Anes Tina – comedian
Source: Al Jazeera News
For the past four months, millions of Algerians have been hitting the streets of cities and villages across the country, demanding change. Protesters have already succeeded in toppling the country’s long-time president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but they are far from finished. Their next target is nothing less than a comprehensive dismantling of the ruling system.