The New Arab Conversation: Blogging in the Middle East

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”.

I wrote an article on the Sri Lanka blogosphere a couple of months ago in which I said:

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:

Irhabi 007
Roba Al-Assi
Big Pharaoh
Unplugged: Diary of a Palestinian Mother
Ammar Abdulhamid
Where is Raed?
Iraq the Model
Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam
The Lebanese Bloggers
Lisa Goldman
Egyptian Sandmonkey
Perpetual Refugee
Charles Malik
UAE blog
Lirun Rabinowitz

Also see:

Introduction to blogs and blogging
Best of blogs in Sri Lanka
HRW 2007 Report’s essay on Internet & Web Censorship – Lessons for Lanka?
Diplomacy and blogs
Blogging Left, Right & Centre
Defeating repressive regimes

3 thoughts on “The New Arab Conversation: Blogging in the Middle East

  1. Internet Censorship On The Rise In Arab Countries

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) has published its second annual report on Internet and free expression in the Arab World. The report surveys 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and includes a chapter on the growing popularity of blogging in the region.

    The report finds that across the Arab world, Internet usage is growing rapidly as citizens seek information and news not being covered by traditional media, which are heavily censored by governments. From 2004 to 2006, the number of users grew from 14 million to 26 million.

    Blogging has become one of the most popular tools for sharing information and voicing dissenting views. There are some 40,000 blogs on the Internet, according to the report. In response, governments are increasingly cracking down on bloggers by blocking access to certain websites, shutting down blogs and jailing individuals.

    The report is available online here:

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