Al Jazeera Talk blogger responsible for ElShaheed Facebook page that took down Mubarak

Ahmed Ashour, Managing Director of Al Jazeera Talk blog network, reveals that one of his bloggers was behind the Facebook group that eventually toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

When Ahmed Ashour took the mic at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia last weekend, he told everyone he had a secret to reveal: « This is the first time I’m making a presentation in English ».

Everyone laughed, it broke the ice, and he got started detailing the struggle Al Jazeera Talk bloggers faced in earning the respect of the mainstream media and even Al Jazeera journalists working in the same newsroom.

It was a fascinating tale of triumph of the youth, where the Facebook mentality permeated the network to such an extent that when Internet access was severely limited, people in Tahrir square began writing their “status updates” on scraps of paper and passing them along from person to person.

It wasn’t untill Ashour was well into his talk that he dropped a bomb that made Philip (Citizenside’s editor-in-chief) and I turn and look at each other in amazement. “Did he just say what I think he did?” But then he just kept on talking and nobody else seemed to notice.

“Did he just say what I think he did?”

So after the session was over, Philip and I approached the podium for some much needed confirmation. Phililp started asking the questions (his history in broadcast journalism kicked in like auto-pilot and he was instantly in interview mode). My reflexes weren’t quite so honed, I was too preoccupied in hearing that actual confirmation, so I lagged a bit on pulling out my Nexus S to “roll camera”.

Abdul Rahman is the creator and thinker of the Facebook group ElShaheed. Rahman is a blogger for Al Jazeera Talk. Until now the figurehead of this group was believed to be Wael Ghonim, engineer for Google and highly influential anti-Mubarak activist.

Read the full transcript

Until this time, Ghonim has been the sole person credited for starting the page that played a central role in inciting Egypt’s population to protest Mubarak.

The bomb that Ashour dropped, the mega-secret that he let slip, was that Abdul Rahman was actually an Al Jazeera Talk correspondent, and that this blogger was the mind behind the page that has over 1 million likes today.

Journalist or Activist?

Obviously, for any professional news outlet this crosses major lines of objectivity and completely jeopardizes any notion of fair and balanced reporting. With Al Jazeera Talk, though, Ashour explained that objectivity wasn’t essential to his vision of the new journalist. He seemed to favor passion to objectivity.

It seems Ashour announced this connection to the ElShaheed page for the first time in our presence, and even though we were surrounded by a hall full of journalists and journalism students, I have yet to read of this fact in any other news source.

And I can’t explain why.

All I can say is watch the video, the evidence is clear enough (the transcript helps).

This is a guest post from Garrett Goodman, a new media consultant currently working with Citizenside, a French start-up that specialises in increasing audience engagement with its UGC hub solution, the Reporter Kit. This solution uses a proprietory system that integrates badges, grades and points to add a social gaming layer to news gathering and UGC verification.