From Poynter Online, a pointer to an interesting story on the growth of blogging and online political activism in the Middle-East.
The New Arab Conversation by Gal Beckerman is an interesting account of the manner in which blogging is changing the way in which youth in particular are responding to, and fighting a virtual battle again, the oppression, corruption, nepotism and political ineptitude that is ruining their societies.
Last summer was, in fact, a watershed moment for the Middle Eastern blogosphere. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah not only brought attention to the many different Arab conversations that had taken place on homemade Web sites in the past two or three years, but also launched thousands more of them. And they were more than just a handful of aberrant voices. They reflected a new culture of openness, dialogue, and questioning. And unlike the neoconservative notion that these ideals can be dropped on a foreign population like so many bomblets, the push for change here is coming from within. Whether it is a Jordanian student discussing the taboo subject of the monarchy’s viability or a Saudi woman writing about her sexual experiences or an Egyptian commenting with sadness at an Israeli blogger’s description of a suicide bombing, each of these unprecedented acts is one small move toward opening up these societies.
The article notes that the majority of blogs are in Arabic, but it is obvious that Gal does not read or understand the language, choosing to highlight in the article excerpts from blogs writing in English, claiming that “Arab bloggers themselves say that a particularly interesting alternative space is being formed on the sites composed in English”.
Kottu and Moju aren’t representative of anything other than individual voices featured on a single website. There aren’t any blogs, posts or comments in Sinhala and Tamil, which is deeply indicative of the limited reach of both websites to inform and influence opinions beyond those comfortable with English as a language of expression and communication.
That said, Kottu and Moju showcase a diversity of opinion that one would be very hard pressed to find in any mainstream media in Sri Lanka. The voices are overwhelmingly young, vibrant and passionate.
As Electra, a regular and one of the more eloquent bloggers in Sri Lanka points out:
“…but for what it’s worth, our opinions need to be out there, reaching out to a community larger than that which has access to and interest in the sri lankan blogosphere. More people need to see this. More people need to hear us.”
Poynter’s criticism of this article was that it didn’t have any links to the interesting blogs / websites it mentions.
A major gripe, though: no links at all in the story, when she quotes several interesting bloggers we would consider looking up. The story, it seems, is just shovelware from the print CJR.
To correct this, I’ve scoured the web and come up with links for the websites mentioned in the article:
Unplugged: Diary of a Palestinian Mother
Where is Raed?
Iraq the Model
Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam
The Lebanese Bloggers