Authoritarian regimes and governments vs. bloggers

A recent article on the Citizen Media Summit organised by Global Voices Online featured in the European Journalism Centre website is essential reading for activist bloggers in particular and citizen journalists interested in interrogating repression, violent conflict and human rights abuses.

The article on the EJC website suggests that,

  • Blogging is a truly global phenomenon
  • Bloggers are under increasing attack and the line dividing mainstream journalism and blogging / citizen journalism is increasingly blurred in the eyes of repressive States and governments
  • The conversations are not just in English, but in the vernacular of regions and nations
  • Blogging is being taken more and more seriously as a serious form of communication, even when the content cannot always be taken seriously
  • Governments and repressive regimes can still control the Internet and web to a large degree
  • Governments and repressive regimes are powerless, in spite of this control, to wholly contain the free flow of information since to do so is increasingly to draw attention to outright censorship that cannot be erased, whitewashed or covered up – expending significant political capital. 
  • Bloggers and blogs are at the frontlines of democratic movements 
  • And yet, they often do not have the same protection as mainstream journalists or mechanisms / institutions of support, lobbying, advocacy and legal remedies when they are incarcerated or under attack
Sadly, though overall a good read, the EJC’s article also demonstrates the rather unfortunate proclivity for rodomantade and brash optimism when it comes to the reach and influence of new media and blogging. It notes for example, 
The technology, the ideas and the processes that have made possible blogs, social networks, and collaborative projects like Wikipedia also give many unconventional thinkers previously consigned to the margins of public life a platform that enables them to be heard by a dedicated (if often tiny) audience. 
That to me grossly oversimplifies things and is just bad, over broad and ultimately meaningless analysis. Blogs and blogging, from production to dissemination and influence need to take into account, inter alia, class, caste and (party) political power centres and structures. Importantly, issues like language politics, ethnicity and other identity markers and their interplay with web based media production and generation as well as aspects such as gender (which does not even get a single mention in the EJC article) cannot be ignored when talking about the reach and influence of blogs and blogging as a means of communication.
More on this in my next post.

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