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Arab bloggers discuss role in ‘Arab Spring’ ahead of Nobel Peace Prize

Arab bloggers gathered in Tunis discussed the role they played in the wave of revolutions and uprisings which swept across the region, known popularly as the “Arab Spring”.

The discussions come just days before the announcement of the Nobel Peace prize in which several of the bloggers are seen as frontrunners.

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During the meeting, held in the country whose “Jasmin Revolution” is credited with kicking of the turmoil in the Arab world, much of the focus was on local blogger Lina Ben Mhenni.

Mhenni chronicled the revolution in Tunisia from her blog and, along with Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim, is seen as one of the likely candidates for the prize, which is set to be announced in Oslo later this week.

“Of course cyberactivism as a movement can change things, but we cannot forget that the Tunisian revolution began on the ground,” said Ben Mhenni, adding that if she did indeed win the Nobel Peace Prize she would dedicate it to “the martyrs and the wounded throughout Tunisia.”

This sentiment was echoed by other delegates at the meeting.

“It wasn’t Twitter, it wasn’t Facebook, that carried out the revolutions,” said Riadh Guerfali, a member of the Tunisian Nawaat network. “Here, we are the children of those who were imprisoned, tortured, of those who truly sacrificed their lives.”

Ghonim has been credited, meanwhile, as a central inspiration to the Tahir Square protests in Cairo.

Ghonim did administer one of the Facebook pages which helped spark the revolution Egypt. It was, however, an emotional television interview he gave shortly after he was released from 12 days in police custody that is credited with re-energising the protest movement just as it appeared to be losing steam.

Another frontrunner from the ranks of “Arab Spring” bloggers is Israa Abdel Fattah of Egypt and the April 6 youth movement she co-founded in 2008.

The Nobel Committee keeps its list of candidates for the Peace-Prize under tight wraps. Nobel Comittee Chairman Thorbjoern Jugland said, however, that choosing a winner “has not been particularly difficult this year”.

A number of observers have noted that it would be timely for the prestigious prize to go to a party involved in the Arab Spring.

The meeting is the third of its kind, with the previous two being held in Beirut in 2008 and 2009.

The meeting organisers said 10 Palestinian bloggers from the West Bank and Gaza strip could not attend because they had been denied visas.

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