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Monday, January 30, 2006

The Net for Journalists: A practical guide to the Internet for journalists in developing countries

UNESCO collaborated with the Thomson Foundation and Commonwealth Broadcasting Association to produce a handbook for journalists of developing countries on the use of Internet for journalistic purposes.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What are the lessons from Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere?

It was an extraordinary confession. The fervid evangelist for citizen journalism, Dan Gillmor, acknowledged, in excruciating detail, that his attempt to put his preaching into practice -- by launching his widely anticipated Bayosphere site -- was an editorial and business failure.
For years, Gillmor, from his columnist's perch at the San Jose Mercury News and in talks around the world, has been proselytizing about empowering citizen journalists as a counterbalance to mainstream media, and chronicling what he called the movement's heartening success stories. He literally wrote the book on the subject -- "We the Media" -- in 2004.
In early 2005 Gillmor left the Merc to take up a new project that he didn't immediately identify. He acquired a partner, Michael Goff, who, in 1997, launched Microsoft's since-disbanded Sidewalk community sites. Gillmor and Goff won outside funding from Mitch Kapor and the Omidyar Network and assembled a small, humbly paid staff and stable of volunteer citizen journalists. The anticipatory buzz began. In the summer of 2005, Gillmor and his team launched Bayosphere as a site that would be "of, by and for the Bay Area."
Between the June 23, 2005, launch and Gillmor's letter last week to "the Bayosphere community," it was a rocky and sobering seven-month journey. By last fall, things were going so badly that Gillmor said he and Goff decided not to seek any more investor funding and chose to operate the site with their own resources. In his letter, Gillmor said he was not giving up on citizen journalism, and would take his mission to the new Center for Citizen Media at the University of California at Berkeley, the nonprofit he founded and directs. It's unclear at this point whether Bayosphere will survive and, if so, in what form.
Gillmor declined to be interviewed about Bayosphere and its implications for the citizen journalism. "I'm going to have to let that piece speak for itself for the moment," he wrote regarding his "Letter to the Bayosphere Community," in an e-mail.
How could it happen?While Gillmor generously took most of the blame for Bayosphere's failure, I believe he didn't confront the site's overriding problem: It never came close to living up to its mission. It was neither of, by nor for the Bay Area.
If you lived in, say, Wichita, Kan., and Bayosphere was your only source of news and information about the Bay Area, you would think the region's 7 million people spent most of their time thinking and talking about such nerdy subjects as podcasting kits and how far their region was behind Seattle in Wi-Fi deployment.
Shortly after Bayosphere's launch, blogger Bondi Tram sounded a telling warning: "I will be keeping my eye on Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere. Dan's trying to set up a news site focusing on SF, all fed by postings of 'citizen journalists'. I like this idea a lot -- and no doubt it could be replicated elsewhere. But I see already some posts are already, in my view at least, well off topic -- interesting and worthwhile story sure, but is it SF news? I think posts like this will dilute the usefulness of the site."
Though Gillmor frequently said he and Bayosphere would "listen" to their community, Tram's warning, and others like it, seemed to make no impact. Bayosphere continued to concentrate on news about technology, as if it were a sister publication of CNET.com. During its seven months in existence, Bayosphere ran about 400 news items, but few of them dealt with events or happenings in San Francisco or Oakland or the other communities comprising the area. What was happening at Yahoo! with its chat rooms, gun control in Chicago or the German job market for foreigners seemed to be more important.
Bayosphere has a category called "Living Well," but little of it was a celebration of the pleasures of living in or visiting the culturally rich Bay Area. Food -- an obvious topic of interest -- was generally ignored. One of the few exceptions was a citizen journalist contribution called "How to Eat Sushi Properly," but it dragged out into a tedious six-part series.
Though Gillmor and partner Goff are very savvy about Internet technology, they seemed to have problems translating that knowledge into practical know-how. When Goff sent out an appeal to citizen journalists last year for video to be added to Bayosphere, he got this reply from videographer Craig Weiler: "It's about seven to nine weeks from conception to finished product. All the bazillion details require a great deal of planning and time to make them come out right. Because creating video content is so time consuming for everyone, people pick the projects that they want to be involved in carefully. The only exception is when people are getting paid."
But Bayosphere had no money to pay citizen journalists, especially a video crew.
What does it mean for citizen journalism?Is the failure of Bayosphere a bad omen for grassroots journalism and community sites in general? I don't think so. There aren't many success stories, but a close look shows the good sites are doing what Bayosphere mostly failed to do. They focus on a specific locality -- such as Brattleboro, Vt., Westport, Conn., or Bluffton, S.C. -- not an entire region. They try to capture the unique flavor of those communities. They do what blogger and media observer Tim Porter said, in commenting on Bayosphere's failure: "They have voice and emotion and quirkiness, human qualities that appeal to people and bring the news down to a small-town level." Gillmor's citizen journalists, with his encouragement, too often preferred to muse about cosmic subjects, like the recent poster who proclaimed, "A New American Revolution Is Coming."
If there is any general lesson about Bayosphere, it's that citizen journalism at the community level needs less high-flown rhetoric and more street-smart testing. The model for what works in content remains to be finished. Citizen journalism is not a failure. But there needs to be a more engaged relationship between the proprietors and impresarios of community sites and their contributors, some of whom are news-gathering novices.
It may be useful to organize blogs not only around personalities, but also subject areas, like crime and public safety, real estate trends, schools, quality of life, food and entertainment, and other topics tailored to a community's particular identity. If that were done, then the homepage could be a lively collage of the best of the blogs, and, in 30 or so seconds, give users a snapshot of their community on a particular day.
The business model, as Gillmor emphasizes in his letter, should include compensation for its citizen journalists. Perhaps payment could be based on the traffic and advertising that grassroots sites generate. This possibility is steadily moving to the forefront of the lively discussion of how to make citizen journalism work in the marketplace.
There are about 6,000 identifiable communities in the urban United States. Shockingly few of them have websites that capture their voice, emotion and quirkiness. Sooner or later, they will be heard. And then Dan Gillmor's vision for grassroots journalism will be fulfilled.

Citizen media project

Participatory Journalism: The BBC declares 2005 "The year of the digital citizen," in a wrap up of how everyday people contributed to reporting on major events via "gadgets with greater capacity to record, store and share content." From the Southeast Asian tsunami, to the London bombings and most recently the UK's Buncefield oil fires, the mainstream media integrated material "produced" by eye-witnesses into their reporting, a trend the BBC article says will evolve further in 2006 because "Clearly there is an appetite to be involved with the production of news- the capturing of moments that have left their indelible watermark on history, big or small."
The Beeb quotes citizen journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor: "We need a thriving media and journalism ecosystem. We need what big institutions do so well, but we also need the bottom-up - or, more accurately, edge-in - knowledge and ideas of what I've called the 'former audience' that has become a vital part of the system."
Podcasting: Andy Bowers at Slate magazine asks "what the medium of podcasting really is. An outlet for new talent? An outlet for the painfully untalented? A real threat to traditional broadcasting? A promotional tool for mega-corporations? The biggest waste of bandwidth yet created?"
It may be the word of the year, but it seems that many media organizations are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon without really knowing what the value of the medium is nor, more importantly, how to monetize it. But with several new media companies working on these problems accompanied with the simplicity of creating a podcast, 2006 could be the year that newspapers find a way to make turning print into audio profitable.

The New Media: Bloggers and Participatory Journalism

: فيرونيكا بيدروسا / مذيعة الأخبار بقناة الجزيرة الدولية
دانيال غيلمور / مؤسس مركز الإعلام الشعبي.
وليد نويهض / مدير تحرير جريدة الوسط - البحرين.
أوه يوان هو / المدير التنفيذي لشركة أوه ماي نيوز.
برتراند بيكوري / مدير منتدى المحررين العالمي.
هيثم صباح / محرر شؤون الشرق الأوسط - أصوات عالمية أون لاين.
نايثان ستول / مدير إنتاج "غوغل نيوز".
سميح طوقان / رئيس تنفيذي لشبكة مكتوب

Via Sabbah blog

The New Media: Bloggers and Participatory Journalism
This panel will deal with new media such as the phenomena of blogging and participatory journalism. Participants will analyze the effects of “new media” on traditional journalism and discuss the increasing role of the independent voice. Does the appearance of new media indicate a collapse of public trust in mainstream forms? Are traditional media institutions responding to the expectations of their audiences? How have new media transformed the media field and what are the next steps in their development?
Moderator: Veronica Pedrosa - News and Program Presenter, Al Jazeera International
Dan Gilmore- Founder, Center for Citizen Media
Oh Yeon Ho- CEO, Ohmynews.com
Walid Noueihed- Deputy Chief Editor, Al Wasat Newspaper
Bertrand Pecquerie- Director, World Editor’s Forum
Haitham Sabbah- Middle East Editor, Global Voices Online
Nathan Stoll- Product Manager, Google News
Ethan Zuckerman- Co-founder, Global Voices Online

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bloggers' Code of Ethics

Be Honest and FairBloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.Bloggers should:
Never plagiarize.
Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
Minimize HarmEthical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.Bloggers should:
Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
Be AccountableBloggers should:
Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Chinese bloggers debate Google

Google's decision to launch a censored version of its search engine in China has drawn opprobrium from many bloggers around the world.
The BBC News website spoke to bloggers in China and Hong Kong to get their perspective.

Code of practice launched on 'citizen journalism'

A code of practice for media organisations embracing the phenomenon of 'citizen journalism' has been launched by the National Union of Journalists.
The Witness Contributors' Code of Practice outlines guidelines on issues such as accuracy and checking sources, along with payment to contributors.
It also covers copyright and other legal and moral rights and says that organisations should not do anything to encourage people to put themselves in danger in order to gain material.
A copy of the code of practice can be found here.
Its launch follows a debate on citizen journalism and its implications on the media industry, which asked whether the concept was a passing fad or something that would change journalism forever.
Chaired by NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear and hosted by the union and Media Guardian, the debate also questioned whether it was just a cheap way to fill newspapers and examined how organisations can get the best of citizen journalism.
Among those on the debate panel was Kyle McRae, founder of picture agency Scoopt, which sells photographs taken by the general public to newspapers.
He told the debate: "People do actually want to contribute to the news. They are now walking around with tools - camera phones and compact digital cameras - enabling them to take pictures and there is a desire to use this material.
"If there is an amateur rather than a professional on the scene first and they get a picture that tells the story, the media would want to use it, but there is a big hole between the public and the picture desk

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogs in the MSM: Rating the roundups

Traditional news sources are telling a contradictory story about political weblogs. While blogs are presented as the engines of a rejuvenated political debate, MSM sources often link readers to posts that merely restate ideas that have been repeatedly rehearsed by politicians, activists and mainstream commentators.
Most Internet users have yet to start using blogs -- about 73 percent of them, according to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project -- and it is reasonable to predict that some will try to learn about blogs through major news sources' blog roundups. In the absence of a clear consensus on the purpose and merit of blogs, readers who are new to blogs may misjudge the roundups as measures of public opinion. To help readers access new and informed ideas in political debates, MSM sources may have to betray the democratizing potential of blogs and take the risk of judging individual bloggers on their expertise and originality.
The traditional media kept a watchful eye on political blogs during Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings this month. Washingtonpost.com's "Who's Blogging?" feature tracked bloggers who linked to Post stories, as the site has done since fall 2005. NYtimes.com ran one of its sporadic blog roundups for the occasion. And Slate shifted the focus of its regular "Today's Blogs" column to the confirmation hearings.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Board of Advisors Named

Board of Advisors Named

Here’s the initial Board of Advisors for the Center for Citizen Media.

These folks are some of the smartest and most thoughtful people I know. All are committed to a vibrant, diverse media ecosystem– and to helping ensure that tomorrow’s journalism will be honorable and strong.

Center for Citizen Media: Blog

The Center’s Mission(s)

As we work to build the Center for Citizen Media in coming weeks and months, we envision three basic missions. They are:

  • Research, Analysis, Advocacy: Working in-house and in collaboration with others, we will do or commission original research into some of the key questions surrounding citizen media, such as its impact on public knowledge and opinion. We must also understand the genre’s future, and will highlight factors that could either help or deter its development; these include financial sustainability, legal issues and international adoption. Simultaneously, we will speak out on the need for responsible citizen media and its value in a democracy.
  • Best Practices and Tools: We’ll catalog the people and organizations working in the citizens’ media sphere, and highlight their work on our Web site, flagging what look like the best for special attention. We’ll identify the technological tools that people will be using in creating tomorrow’s journalism and other media, in part by working with technologists to help them add appropriate features. These tools, too, will be highlighted online, again with special attention to the ones that appear to work best. The website will also become a test bed (or playground) for trying out various methods.
  • Education, Training, Consulting: We’ll work with people at all levels of citizen journalism — citizens who want to participate in the process; media professionals who want to use these technologies and want to work with citizens; companies that need to understand what is happening; and others.

We hope this site will be a place where people discuss ideas, techniques, tools and more. What you know is considerably more than what we know, and we need to help each other learn.

Two reminders:

First, we won’t be the only people doing such work, and are anxious to collaborate with others. Without your ideas, and your help, we won’t get nearly as much done as we’d like.

Second, we are not the Center OF Citizen Media — that’s an oxymoron in an increasingly decentralized media ecosystem. We are a Center FOR Citizen Media. There is a world of difference.

Sabbah on 2006 Bloggies Finalist

Sabbah on 2006 Bloggies Finalist (10)

Vote for Sabbah on 2006 Bloggies

Well, yours truly is one of finalist in the 2006 Weblog Awards, also known as the ‘Bloggies’.

Sabbah’s Blog was nominated by its awesome readers for “Best African or Middle Eastern Weblog“. This by itself is an honor, and I would like to thank all those who nominated this blog for the award.

Standing by my side are another great blogs and bloggers, some of which are very close friends, like Mahmood and MMM, and I would humbly say that they deserve this award and many more.

As they said; “Millions of blogs, Thousands of nominees, 151 finalists, Thirty winners”. May I be one of them? You decide!

The voting is open to choose the winners, and voting will close at 10:00 PM EST on Sunday, January 31. So feel free to add your voice.

The future of media

The future of media


„Welcome to the Digital Lifestyle Day 2006“: The performance of the humanoid roboter Asimo in the beginning of the session “What matters?” with DLD-chairmen Dr Hubert Burda and Dr Joseph Vardi was just one of the DLD 06 highlights. Blogging, the future of TV or digital Asia – the first panels of the conference gave impressive insight views into the future of media. In France, more than two thirds of internet users know blogging, reports Loic Le Meur, Executive VP and General Manager EMEA, Six Apart. Many of them have already their own blogs. Model Anina revolutionized the fashion world with her blog “360° Fashion”: “Fashion hates technology. My aim was to crack those stereotypes und to build bridges”, explained Anina. Georg Kofler, Chairman Premiere, spoke about the future of TV: Internet-based and interactive TV will play as an important role as TV on demand. Rainer Beaujean, CEO T-Online, presented for the first time the study “Deutschland Online 3”, conducted in cooperation with Hubert Burda Media. He forecasted that in 2015 three out of four households get telephone, internet and TV from the same supply. In the panel “Learning from Asia” Rick Y. Kim, Michelle Guthrie, Andreas Weigend and Hans-Ulrich Obrist gave an overview to the digital trends of Asia.

What is a blog?

Watch the clip

Video link

Friday, January 20, 2006

دوّن ... ملتقى المدونين العرب - أرشفة وربط المدونات بكلمات مفتاحية

مدونة دوّن !
قمنا بافتتاح مدونة دوّن كي تكون المكان الرئيسي لمناقشة أفكار وتطويرات موقع دوّن. كما ستتيح هذه المدونة المجال أمام الجميع للمشاركة والاستفسار وإبداء الآراء واقتراح الأفكار.
سيتم عرض آخر مواضيع المدونة في الصفحة الاولى من موقع دوّن.

Who Let the Blogs Out? : A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs

Who Let the Blogs Out? : A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs

We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture

We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture

Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World

Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In tiny Arab state, Web takes on ruling elite

MANAMA, Bahrain--Ali Abdulemam, this country's most notorious blogger, sat in the boxlike reception room of his father's house in a cramped Shiite village dotted with raw cinder-block houses, trying to log onto the widely popular Web site that he founded.

The government on this flyspeck of an island nation, home to an American Navy base, recently renewed its effort to block dozens of opposition Web sites. So Abdulemam, 28, a computer engineer, had to spend about 10 minutes whipping through various computer servers around the world before finally pulling up his Web site, BahrainOnline.org.

It was National Day, Dec. 16, and some five miles away, the beautifully landscaped boulevards of Manama, the capital, were packed with revelers enjoying bands and fireworks. Pictures of the ruling princes blanketed the city, which was also awash in the national colors, red and white. Red and white lights were even wrapped around the palm trees lining the main thoroughfares.

But most of the couple of hundred people posting messages in the "National Forum" section of BahrainOnline mocked the idea of celebrating the day in 1971 when a Sunni Muslim king ascended the throne to rule over a Shiite Muslim majority.

"In Bahrain, glorifying the king means glorifying the nation, and opposing the king means betraying the homeland and working for foreign countries," wrote one online participant, noting that the formula is the mark of a dictatorship. "Should we be loyal to the king or to Bahrain?"

Bahrain, long a regional financial hub and a prime example of the power of the Internet to foment discontent, bills itself as a leader of political change in the Arab world. It is a claim echoed in praise from the United States, which considers Bahrain crucial for its many regional military ventures because the American Navy's Fifth Fleet is based here.

But in Bahrain, as across the Arab world, those pushing for democratic change want to end minority rule by a family, sect or a military clique.

The royal family here dominates, holding half the cabinet positions and the major posts in the security services and the University of Bahrain.

Sheik Muhammad al-Khalifa, the prince who runs the Economic Development Board, argues that Bahrain should not become a democracy in the Western sense. "As traditional Arabs, I don't think democracy is part of our nature," he said.

"I think all people want is accountability," he added, noting that some form of democracy was needed to achieve that.

So political change in the Middle East rests partly on whether and how the many minority governments will yield power and allow others to participate. So far, the results are anemic.

The al-Saud tribe slapped its name on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where local elections a year ago have not produced active municipal councils, and crucial issues like how much oil wealth the ruling family absorbs are not discussed.

In Syria, the ruling Assad family and its confederates from the Alawite minority sect are in crisis, accused of assassinating Rafik Hariri, a former Sunni prime minister of Lebanon and an important figure who might have been able to rally majority support against the Alawites' monopoly on power.

Of course, Iraq remains the biggest experiment of all in changing the practice of minority rule. The American occupation has yet to answer whether it is possible to forge a democratic government in the Arab world, or if the attempt will drown in a cauldron of sectarian bloodshed. But the results are being closely watched, perhaps nowhere more than in Bahrain, where up to 70 percent of its native population of 450,000 are Shiites, similar to Iraq's Shiite-Sunni split. Shiites here also increasingly look to moderate religious leaders in Iraq for guidance.

Some political change has occurred. Debate is growing through the Internet, satellite television and other forces, and elections this year will replace the Parliament and municipal councils first chosen in 2002 under a new Constitution. Members of the ruling Khalifa family describe this as a vibrant process that will ultimately establish a local strain of democracy. Yet some of its most senior members and their Sunni allies hint that the process is threatened because Bahrain's Shiites disloyally serve outside interests like the Shiites in Iran and Iraq.

Members of the opposition call this nonsense and accuse the ruling dynasty of questioning their loyalty to avoid having to share power. They say King Hamad and his Khalifa clan, descendants of Bedouins from the Arabian mainland who conquered this island, taking it from its Persian masters in the 18th century, will only make cosmetic changes, noting that almost nothing has been done to alleviate the entrenched discrimination faced by the poorest segments of the Shiite population.

"The problem with the royal family is that when they give us any democracy they think that it is a gift and we have to thank them for it," Abdulemam said. "The time when they were the lords and we were the slaves is gone. The new generation is well educated. They won't live like our fathers did in the past, when they said O.K. to whatever the royal family did."

A 'golden time' cut short
Bahrain's first Parliament, elected in 1973, proved too boisterous for King Hamad's father, who dissolved it after 18 months. Opposition demands to restore it increased through the 1990's, marked by bombings and other sporadic violence. The authoritarian government subjected the mostly Shiite opposition political activists to arrest, torture and forced exile.

When King Hamad, now 55, inherited power in 1999, he promised a democracy that he described as "areeqa" or "well rooted."

He announced changes that included amnesty for exiles and the disbanding of the dreaded State Security Courts. Bahrainis enthusiastically approved the new plan in a public referendum.

It was then that Abdulemam established his groundbreaking Web site, determined to give Bahrainis a place to share ideas and develop plans to deepen political change. "It seemed like a golden time, when the country was moving from one period in its history to another," he said. "Everybody needed a place to talk so I provided it."

But King Hamad soon hit the brakes. In 2002 he announced a new Constitution, formulated without public consultation.

The cabinet, led by his uncle, a hard-liner opposing democratic change, would report to him, not the Parliament. Instead of a single 40-member Parliament, he added an appointed upper house. Amending the Constitution now required a two-thirds majority of both houses, giving the monarch full control. Parliament now could only propose laws, not write them. An audit bureau that had previously reported to Parliament was replaced with one that would not subject the spending of the royal court or the 2,500 royal family members to any public scrutiny.

"I had been full of hope that a new era was coming to Bahrain," Abdulemam said. "But what happened next threw us all in the dirt. When the king brought in the new Constitution, everyone was crushed."



Blogs as paintings

Technologies of Cooperation

Posted by Gerrit Visser at 07:58 AM

Watch this clip of blogger, online facilitator and collaboration expert Nancy White.


It is part of TheWeblogProject - the first open-source movie documentary about blogs and bloggers.

also see these other two great video clips:

clip one
clip two

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The State of Grassroots Journalism

Dan Gillmor is author of “We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People” and founder of the Center for Citizen Media. He is a well-known and vocal proponent of “citizen journalism” – as he puts it: “the democratization of the tools and the distribution [of journalism] – the idea that anyone can do it.”

Japan has a number of its own citizen journalism projects, notably a “public journalism” site, which is part of Internet entrepreneur Horie Takafumi’s Livedoor News Web site. But despite Horie once vowing to “kill Japanese newspapers and TV,” citizen journalism seems to have barely landed a blow as yet. Site traffic is modest, and professional journalists have seemed critical and wary of the new competition. By way of contrast, in neighboring South Korea, citizen journalism Web site OhmyNews has more than 40,000 citizen and full-time reporters and once logged 25 million page views in a single day.

Japan Media Review spoke to Dan Gillmor about citizen journalism in the United States, South Korea and Japan. As well as considering why citizen journalists have had so little success thus far challenging Japan’s “old” media, Gillmor spoke about how citizen journalism has the potential to change media everywhere.

This is an edited transcript of interviews conducted by telephone and e-mail.

Japan Media Review: You have just set up the Center for Citizen Media. What is the project’s aim and would you describe it as “civic journalism”?

Dan Gillmor: Civic journalism was really about news organizations setting public agendas and being more directly involved with community affairs. The public civic journalism that people talked about was exclusively about big organizations or the local equivalent of mass media doing the agenda setting. The thing that I am focused on is bottom up as opposed to top down. I am involved with the citizen media idea – the democratization of the tools and the distribution – the idea that anyone can do it. I’m very anxious that the existing media organizations participate in this themselves and encourage people in their audiences to participate.

JMR: How does that compare to a project like OhmyNews in South Korea that started off in opposition to the mainstream media?

DG: It was exclusively independent of the main media when they set it up. Their whole goal was to be an alternative, and it was under conditions that are not at all like the conditions in the U.S. You had three newspapers that had a substantial majority among them of all the circulation in Seoul and much of the country. That’s a monolithic media quite unlike anything in the U.S. And those three were very much tied to the power structure in a very fundamental way. While the media in the U.S. tend to be kind of corporate, they are not in general locked into the power structure.

JMR: Do you have any idea why Japan hasn’t come up with any citizen journalism project on the scale of OhmyNews?

DG: I don’t think I am an expert enough on Japan, but Japan has had a very different history with the Internet until the last several years. Internet access was very, very expensive. At the same time the Japanese were one of the two or three world leaders in mobile communications, so a lot of what people have done there that is advanced has been in the mobile area. 2 Channel [a popular Internet discussion board], which is probably the most interesting early experiment, was pretty radical for Japan.

JMR: 2 Channel is hugely popular - reportedly the world’s largest Internet discussion board - but it has been heavily criticized by the Japanese media.

DG: I can understand why. A lot of anonymous chatter is not the same as citizen journalism. At a very basic level, if one doesn’t stand behind one’s own words it is possible that it is journalism, but it is likely that it is not.

JMR: How do you progress from an anonymous and chaotic bulletin board like 2 Channel to a citizen journalism movement?

DG: There is a lot of interesting information on that site and a lot of data, but it is not something I would call journalism. You can learn a lot [on 2 Channel] - from what I understand from people who have told me about it. The problem is that if you are wise you start off with the bias that it is likely to be false, and that maybe there is some truth in there, but who knows? At least that’s my bias when I see anonymous [postings].

JMR: Isn’t that also a problem in citizen journalism?

DG: We are going to have to change what we think of as media literacy, among other things. You have to change attitudes on two sides. One is persuading people who are doing citizen journalism, that if they really want to do journalism that it involves more than just writing down their views. It also means more responsibility on the part of the audience to not assume that everything written is going to be true.

JMR: What are your impressions of the civil journalism movement in Japan?

DG: I would say that there is clearly some interest in this in Japan. They published my book [“We the Media. Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People”] and to my astonishment put me on the cover of Aera [a Japanese weekly magazine]. [Takafumi] Horie endorsed my book, which was really amazing. He has clearly been pushing the envelope on this.

JMR: There are several citizen journalism projects in Japan, but the media seem to be somewhat standoffish.

DG: Ask them what would happen if they did [support citizen journalism]. Would the [press] club throw them out? In a place where access is so dependent on being a member of this club it is easy to see why major media are taking it slowly.

JMR: Are the Japanese media scared of losing their monopoly?

DG: Well, they are scared of it here too. But the bigger issue in America is not the competition journalistically. I think that’s a side issue. The changes here are coming about almost entirely because the business model is unraveling and everyone is scared. News companies, the bosses, are thinking, ‘Oh my God, we are losing all our advertising,’ and the journalists are starting to realize that their jobs are in real jeopardy. People are experimenting, it’s not like anyone has found an answer.

Classified ads in particular are disappearing onto the Web and newspapers are losing their single most profitable revenue. That’s tending to focus their attention: local newspapers in particular, but [also] advertising in general.

JMR: The Japanese media is much more centralized than the U.S. media with few local newspapers reliant on classified ads. Could that help explain why citizen journalism hasn’t taken off here?

DG: So it will take longer for the business questions to become obvious. They will eventually. It’s a big upheaval.

JMR: Why is the involvement of professional journalists in citizen journalism important?

DG: They need to do more listening and conversing and a little less lecturing. That’s because I think news is fundamentally a conversation and not a lecture; and when journalists realize that they do better journalism.

It would certainly help a lot, give it more obvious legitimacy. The failure to participate won’t stop this, but the participation will certainly accelerate it and maybe will help save the media from otherwise major potential catastrophe.

JMR: And that goes for Japan too?

DG: I assume it’s true [for Japan too]. I am confident that this is true everywhere, that journalists will do better journalism if they think of the process more as a conversation than as a lecture. Period. Having said that, these things will develop in different ways in different places.

JMR: What is the connection between citizen journalism and democracy? How about in a country like Japan where the same party has been in power almost uninterruptedly for over half a century?

DG: I think it's a fairly simple connection. The more engaged someone becomes with current events, the more likely one is to be a well-informed person. And being well informed is the key to being a good citizen.

JMR: Many people have criticized journalistic standards in citizen journalism. How do you respond to people like [South African academic] Vincent Maher who say that “citizen journalism is dead”?

DG: I thought in the end that he and I agreed on more than we disagreed on. What’s going on now is a snapshot in time and it is going to change. I think that if we can do this right, it is just going to get better. [That’s] in terms of journalism. I don’t have any predictions in terms of the journalism business, that’s a much tougher question.

It’s fair to say that a lot of what people have tried to do has failed, but that doesn’t mean that the idea is a bad one, or that the trend is going to stop. Anything that is radically evolutionary is not going to proceed either on a straight path or on an exponential curve. It’s going to have ups and downs on the way. But I think that the overall trajectory is positive.

JMR: What will be the next step for citizen journalism?

DG: I think the next steps will be more acceptance by the major media, a thousand different experiments, a lot of learning and adaptation. When I said evolutionary I really meant that. It’s a process of many different things being tried, many if not most of them failing, and sticking with the ones that work. The newspaper and the broadcasting media and magazines did not become what they are overnight. It was decades and centuries of refinement and trying different things and staying with what works and discarding what didn’t. It would be silly to attach too much meaning to a snapshot.



Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Dangerous Question

Reporters Without Borders, an organization that wants to protect and encourage free speech around the world, asks a big question: "Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they respect free expression?"
There's a surface appeal to this proposal. But it gives me the shivers. The idea is impractical, for one thing. And if we ask for regulation of speech -- even under the principle of protecting it -- we may be inviting the wrong kind of interference later on.
I have no brief for the companies that have all but forced such questions to the surface with their amoral behavior. The litany of officially sanctioned censorship grows longer every day -- and U.S. technology companies complicity in repressive governments' clampdowns on political speech is downright repulsive.
To its credit, Reporters Without Borders recognizes the matter's complexity, and doesn't make its suggestion lightly. Moreover, the organization has been trying to achieve its goals in other ways:
Reporters Without Borders has written to the chief executives of several corporations since 2002 proposing an exchange of ideas on this issue. None of our letters have been answered. We have also tried to alert the shareholders of these companies through investment funds. We presented a joint statement on 7 November in New York in which 25 investment firms managing some 21 billion dollars in assets undertook to monitor the activities of Internet companies operating in repressive countries.
Aside from Google, all the companies we approached refused to enter into a dialogue on this subject. We would therefore now like the American people’s elected representatives and the Department of State to formally take up this issue.
An actual law to address this should only become a "last resort," the organization says, and this should be a two-step process:
Initially, a group of congressmen should formally ask Internet corporations to reach an agreement among themselves on a code of conduct that includes the recommendations we make at the end of this document. The companies would be urged to use the help of organisations specialised in freedom of expression in drafting the document. The request would include a deadline for the companies to submit their draft code of conduct to the congressmen concerned.
In the event that no satisfactory code of conduct has been drawn up when the deadline expires, or the proposed code has not been accepted by a sufficient number of representative companies, the congressmen would set about drafting a law that would aim to ensure that US companies respect freedom of expression when they are operating in repressive countries and elsewhere.
Which members of Congress does Reporters Without Borders propose to approach? The ones who might cause the technology execs to listen -- in a Washington utterly dominated by people who favor business' desires over just about all else -- are the least likely to get involved. I doubt that Cisco's John Chambers, whose company is one of the primary enablers of censorship, would offer more than a tiny bit of lip service if, say, Zoe Lofgren (a Democrat who represents San Jose, Cisco's home town, in Congress) raised this issue.
Perhaps some Democrats, plus Republicans whose main motive would be to embarrass the Chinese regime, would come up with a "code of conduct" along these lines. The chances of its passage might be higher than we'd think, if it actually came to the floors of the House and Senate, because it would be difficult for incumbents to explain at election time why they favored censorship elsewhere but defended free speech (assuming they do) at home. But it would never get to the floor, for that reason.
Then there's the question of how or whether such a law would work. I can't begin to imagine how it would be enforced. How would we distinguish among the various cases that would be sure to arise, such as whether a site was taken down for political reasons or because it genuinely violated reasonable terms of service? Who wants that job, anyway? And what kind of penalties for noncompliance would we establish?
But the chief problem with this proposal is not whether it could pass or is practical. The very notion of governments telling companies how they must behave on matters of speech is worrisome in the first place.
Do we invite different kinds of interference down the road when we ask governments to be the arbiter of what speech is allowable and what isn't? I fear we do. The U.S. government is growing visibly hostile to the First Amendment even today, and America is heading in the wrong direction on free speech in a general way. Maybe we should tend to our own backyard before we tell our neighbor how to weed his garden.
Nonetheless, the answers aren't easy, as Rebecca MacKinnon says today, "but we need a lot more intelligent public debate on this."

Ethical Standards for Internet Companies

Reporters Without Borders is asking: "Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they respect free expression?" Good question indeed. The human rights groups lists the various ways in which different American "Internet sector companies" have contributed to the stifling of freedom of speech around the world, blocking channels of communication on matters that are clearly unrelated to porn or terrorism. RWB also reveals that its efforts at dialogue with these companies have been ignored by everybody except Google:
Reporters Without Borders has written to the chief executives of several corporations since 2002 proposing an exchange of ideas on this issue. None of our letters have been answered. We have also tried to alert the shareholders of these companies through investment funds. We presented a joint statement (pdf) on 7 November in New York in which 25 investment firms managing some 21 billion dollars in assets undertook to monitor the activities of Internet companies operating in repressive countries.
Aside from Google, all the companies we approached refused to enter into a dialogue on this subject. We would therefore now like the American people’s elected representatives and the Department of State to formally take up this issue. [Links and emphasis added.]
A UK-based organization called Article 19 worked with United Nations on a Joint Declaration: International Mechanisms for Freedom of Expression (pdf). The declaration, just released on December 21st, calls for companies and governments to adhere to the following global standards:
· No one should be required to register with or obtain permission from any public body to operate an Internet service provider, website, blog or other online information dissemination system, including Internet broadcasting. This does not apply to registration with a domain name authority for purely technical reasons or rules of general application which apply without distinction to any kind of commercial operation.
· The Internet, at both the global and national levels, should be overseen only by bodies which are protected against government, political and commercial interference, just as freedom from such interference is already universally acknowledged in the area of the print and broadcast media. National regulation of Internet domain names should never be used as a means to control content.
· The right to freedom of expression imposes an obligation on all States to devote adequate resources to promote universal access to the Internet, including via public access points. The international community should make it a priority within assistance programmes to assist poorer States in fulfilling this obligation.
· Filtering systems which are not end-user controlled – whether imposed by a government or commercial service provider – are a form of prior-censorship and cannot be justified. The distribution of filtering system products designed for end-users should be allowed only where these products provide clear information to end-users about how they work and their potential pitfalls in terms of over-inclusive filtering.
· No one should be liable for content on the Internet of which they are not the author, unless they have either adopted that content as their own or refused to obey a court order to remove that content. Jurisdiction in legal cases relating to Internet content should be restricted to States in which the author is established or to which the content is specifically directed; jurisdiction should not be established simply because the content has been downloaded in a certain State.
· Restrictions on Internet content, whether they apply to the dissemination or to the receipt of information, should only be imposed in strict conformity with the guarantee of freedom of expression, taking into account the special nature of the Internet.
· Corporations which provide Internet searching, chat, publishing or other services should make an effort to ensure that they respect the rights of their clients to use the Internet without interference. While this may pose difficulties in relation to operations in certain countries, these corporations are encouraged to work together, with the support of other stakeholders, to resist official attempts to control or restrict use of the Internet, contrary to the principles set out herein. [Emphasis added]
I personally believe that when we can keep government out of business, we should try very hard to do so. I would like to see these companies do the right thing and adopt their own industry-wide code of conduct based on guidelines like these, which investors and consumers can hold them too. Various civic monitoring groups can help us measure whether they're keeping their promises.
This will also help us as users measure whether we can trust these companies with our own data, and enable us to make smarter choices about who we give our business to.
But if these companies are completely unresponsive to public opinion and private sector pressure, should government step in? How should such regulations be shaped so as not to be counter-productive? There are no easy answers but we need a lot more intelligent public debate on this.
Why should Americans care what these companies do abroad? Aside from the fact that the lack of respect for freedom of speech and human rights could come back to bite us at home, what about our fundamental global interests as a nation? One anonymous commentor on my initial Tuesday post on Microsoft's censorship in China puts it thus:
A lot here have been said about doing business in China must follow the Chinese rules or practices. This certainly has its merit, however this is only the half truth. Why most American companies will not and can not bribe their ways out in China as their Chinese competitors normally do? Because there is something called ‘Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(FCPA)’. The dire financial & reputational consequences of breaching such a US law prevent most Americans from doing under-the-table tricks which are ubiquitous in China. Do American business suffer? I assume so. Why not a lot of people cry for this?
So the question is really at what price the Amercians, especailly the American government, will hold their moral high ground. Comparing with the billions of dollors the Americans (or at least half of the Americans) are willingly to shed to promote democracy in Middle-east, I do believe the financial consequences of Microsoft or Google or whoever who do not comply with Chinese blackmails will be just peanuts.
Certainly, from any single corporation’s point of view, especially for those with big stake in China, loss of revenue there is an immediate pain. This is why I think the American government should step in, establishing something similar to the FCPA, forbiding US companies from assisting foreign governments to curb any democratic initiatives.
If American technology companies don't do a better job at showing they care about human rights and freedom of speech, calls for government intervention are likely to grow louder.
By the way, that initial post of mine on Tuesday hit #1 on Blogpulse for the day, which means, I guess, that a lot of people care pretty strongly about this issue.

Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they respect free expression ?

The recent case of Microsoft closing down a journalist’s blog under pressure from the Chinese authorities once again shows that some Internet sector companies do not respect freedom of expression when operating in repressive countries. Reporters Without Borders proposes six concrete ways to make these companies behave ethically. These recommendations are addressed to the US government and US legislators because all the companies named in this document are based in the United States. Nonetheless, they concern all democratic countries and have therefore been sent to European Union officials and to the Secretary General of the OECD as well.
Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly condemned the ethical lapses displayed by certain Internet sector companies when operating in repressive countries. Here are some examples that have caused us particular concern :
Since 2002, Yahoo ! has agreed to censor the results of the Chinese version of its search engine in accordance with a blacklist provide by the Chinese government. Reporters Without Borders also recently proved that Yahoo ! helped the Chinese police identify and then convict a journalist who was criticising human rights abuses in China. The e-mail servers of Yahoo !’s Chinese division are located inside China.
Microsoft censors the Chinese version of its MSN Spaces blog tool. You cannot enter search strings such as “democracy” or “human rights in China” or “capitalism” as they are automatically rejected by the system. Microsoft also closed down a Chinese journalist’s blog following pressure from the government in Beijing. This blog was hosted on servers located in the United States.
All sources of news and information that are censored in China have been withdrawn by Google from the Chinese version of its news search engine, Google News.
Secure Computing has sold Tunisia technology that allows it to censor independent news and information websites such as the Reporters Without Borders one.
Fortinet has sold the same kind of software to Burma.
Cisco Systems has marketed equipment specifically designed to make it easier for the Chinese police to carry out surveillance of electronic communications. Cisco is also suspected of giving Chinese engineers training in how to use its products to censor the Internet.
We believe these practices violate the right to freedom of expression as defined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed by the United Nations when it was founded and which is supposed to apply to everyone, including business corporations. Furthermore, such ethical failings on the part of American companies damage the image of the Unites States abroad.
Our previous initiatives
Reporters Without Borders has written to the chief executives of several corporations since 2002 proposing an exchange of ideas on this issue. None of our letters have been answered. We have also tried to alert the shareholders of these companies through investment funds. We presented a joint statement on 7 November in New York in which 25 investment firms managing some 21 billion dollars in assets undertook to monitor the activities of Internet companies operating in repressive countries.
Aside from Google, all the companies we approached refused to enter into a dialogue on this subject. We would therefore now like the American people’s elected representatives and the Department of State to formally take up this issue.
The initiative
Reporters Without Borders is convinced that a law regulating the activities of Internet companies should only be drafted as a last resort, and we therefore recommend a two-step approach. Initially, a group of congressmen should formally ask Internet corporations to reach an agreement among themselves on a code of conduct that includes the recommendations we make at the end of this document. The companies would be urged to use the help of organisations specialised in freedom of expression in drafting the document. The request would include a deadline for the companies to submit their draft code of conduct to the congressmen concerned.
In the event that no satisfactory code of conduct has been drawn up when the deadline expires, or the proposed code has not been accepted by a sufficient number of representative companies, the congressmen would set about drafting a law that would aim to ensure that US companies respect freedom of expression when they are operating in repressive countries and elsewhere.
Reporters Without Borders’ proposals
We have listed our recommendations according to the type of service or equipment marketed by Internet companies :
E-mail services :
No US company would be allowed to host e-mail servers within a repressive country*. So, if the authorities of a repressive country want personal information about the user of a US company’s e-mail service, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by US.
Search engines :
Search engines would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” words. The list of “protected” keywords such as “democracy” or “human rights” should be appended to the law or code of conduct.
Content hosts (websites, blogs, discussion forums etc)
US companies would not be allowed to locate their host servers within repressive countries. If the authorities of a repressive country desire the closure of a publication hosted by a US company, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by the US judicial authorities. Like search engines, content hosts would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” key-words.
Internet censorship technologies
Reporters Without Borders proposes two options :
Option a : US companies would no longer be permitted to sell Internet censorship software to repressive states.
Option b : They would still be able to market this type of software but it will have to incorporate a list of “protected” keywords that are rendered technically impossible to censor.
Internet surveillance technology and equipment
US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce in order to sell to a repressive country any technology or equipment which can be used to intercept electronic communications or which is specifically designed to assist the authorities in monitoring Internet users.
US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce before providing any programme of training in Internet surveillance and censorship techniques in a repressive country.
* A list of countries that repress freedom of expression would be drawn up on the basis of documents provided by the US State Department and would be appended to the code of conduct or law that is adopted. This list would be regularly updated.
Note : The purpose of these recommendations is to protect freedom of expression. They in no way aim to restrict the necessary cooperation between governments in their efforts to combat terrorism, paedophilia and cyber-crime.

International Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they respect free expression ?

The recent case of Microsoft closing down a journalist’s blog under pressure from the Chinese authorities once again shows that some Internet sector companies do not respect freedom of expression when operating in repressive countries. Reporters Without Borders proposes six concrete ways to make these companies behave ethically.

Blogosphere goes wild for Firefox P2P extension

An as-yet-unreleased Firefox extension that aims to turn the popular Web browser into a file-sharing tool is building considerable buzz in the blogosphere.
AllPeers, a company based in the U.K., is in the midst of developing a peer-to-peer tool for the open-source browser, which it claims is "the best thing to happen to Firefox...since Firefox." The software has yet to be released, but the company says it will allow Web surfers to browse each other's hard drives and download files.
"AllPeers is a free extension which combines the strength of Firefox and the efficiency of BitTorrent to transform your favorite browser into a media sharing powerhouse," states the company's Web site.
The extension will be available "soon", according to the company, which has posted screenshots on its Web site to show the tool's interface.
Over the last few weeks, interest in the extension has been building fast, with scores of blog postings about the AllPeers extension, according to blog search engine Technorati.
Web browser developers have been working for months to add BitTorrent support into their products, noting that it has become a standard way to transfer large files such as open-source software packages. The file-sharing protocol is also extraordinarily popular, however, among surfers seeking free movies, games and movies.
Norwegian software company Opera already has released a test version of its browser with the P2P tool installed, and an independent open-source project called MozTorrent is working on its own Firefox plug-in.
With the explicit abilities of browsing other people's drives and sharing files directly from the browser, the AllPeers extension goes farther than previous projects.
U.S. blogger "B.D." was excited about the new extension, claiming that at the expense of its main rival, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the extension could increase the number of people using Firefox,
"This is exciting news as it really moves Firefox into a realm that IE can only dream of at the moment," the blogger said in a posting last week.
"By using a peer network of some sort, Firefox will exploit the publicity surrounding this functionality which has the potential to multiply the number of people exposed to the Firefox application tremendously. This could be huge," he said.
Other bloggers agreed that this could increase Firefox market share. "It sounds like AllPeers gives us yet another reason to use Firefox," wrote blogger "JonnyGuru". Some bloggers were more skeptical about the new extension. Mike Linksvayer said he was reluctant to write about a software that was not yet available, as it "could be vaporware." Another blogger warned that being associated with peer-to-peer file sharing could damage the open-source browser's reputation.
"I'm afraid the 'peers' or 'P2P' moniker will end up sullying Firefox's name to those out there not in the know," said the blogger, who describes himself as a golfing tech-geek.
It's not just English-speaking bloggers that are interested in the new Firefox extension. Blogs in a number of other languages, including Chinese, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish, also have mentioned the AllPeers extension.
Ingrid Marson reported for ZDNet UK. CNET News.com staff writer John Borland also contributed to this report.

Why is Le Blog so popular in Franc

Worldwide there are tens of millions of blogs and these days you can also post digital photos; and, so-called audio and video podcasts which can be downloaded to a personal media player. In France blogging has exploded in the past few months. The French blog community, or blogosphere, has 6 to 7 million blogs making it the second largest in the world behind the US. But it was a podcast interview of French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy with blogger Loic Le Meur just before Christmas that caused a cyberspace sensation in France. It was the first blogger podcast interview with a major French political leader and it has the French mainstream media and political establishment looking on with interest and perhaps with some envy. Le Meur’s blog is already one of the most popular in France but his Sarkozy interview attracted over 50-thousand views to his blog. Running a business that supports internet sites, Loic Le Meur says he has incorporated blogging into his working day. The 31 year old blogs in both French and in English and his motto is ‘traditional media sends messages – blogs start discussions’. Guy Degen spoke with Loic Le Meur.

Blogging in the Arab world

L’Afrique du Nord blogge à gogo
Petit tour d’horizon de la blogosphère du Maghreb et du Machrek

jeudi 29 décembre 2005, par Olivia Marsaud

Phénomène mondial, l’explosion des blogs, sortes de journaux intimes sur Internet, n’a pas épargné l’Afrique du Nord. Du Maroc à l’Egypte, la communauté des bloggers s’étoffe. A côté de blogs très personnels, d’autres sont très engagés politiquement.

La blogosphère mondiale n’en finit pas de s’étoffer. Et l’on peut dire aujourd’hui que les pays du Maghreb et du Machrek font montre d’un beau dynamisme en matière de blogs. Par exemple, Maghreb Blog regroupe des bloggers de Tunisie, du Maroc et d’Algérie. C’est une plate-forme de rencontres sur laquelle les bloggers discutent de leur région, partagent leurs idées, analysent ce qui les sépare et les unit.

Les bloggers tunisiens ont jugé l’année 2005 « exceptionnelle » en matière de création, et TN-Blogs, « agrégateur fédérateur de blogs tunisiens », a lancé les Tunisie blog awards 2005, avec vote des internautes. Le Prix du Meilleur blog a été décerné à La Rebelle blog, un « Blog de rébellion autour d’une tasse à café, émoi, vérité... » d’une Tunisienne installée au Canada, qui existe depuis mai 2004. Il y avait sept autres catégories : meilleur article, meilleur blog généraliste, meilleur blog intimiste, meilleur sens de l’humour, meilleur blog thématique, meilleur espoir, Blog coup de coeur 2005... Les prix ont été annoncés lors du 9e Tunisian Blogger Meetup, le 25 décembre dernier, à Tunis.

Bienvenue en blogoma

Côté Maroc, les bloggers du Royaume chérifien ont su se faire remarquer... C’est le cas du e-journaliste Tarik Essaadi avec Al Jinane, qui a reçu, en juillet dernier, le prix du Meilleur blog africain pour la liberté d’expression, décerné par Reporters sans Frontières. Son mot d’ordre : « Blogger pour comprendre la complexité du monde ». Essaadi espère que son blog encouragera les jeunes Marocains à se lancer dans l’aventure et « explorer la liberté de ce nouvel espace ». « J’aime les blogs qui parlent de choses inattendues, qui secouent la société et qui explorent la culture sous toutes ses formes. » Pour pousser les Marocains à s’engager dans cette voie, il a participé à la création de Webzine Maker, la première plate-forme marocaine de blogs. Il est aussi à l’origine du « portail à blogs » Blog.ma qui permet de créer son espace très simplement.

Il existe à présent un réseau MBN (Morrocan Blogger Network), « un réseau d’interconnexion d’êtres humains » qui a pour but le « partage d’informations, d’idées et de feelings ». Jeunes du Maroc, un portail dédié à la jeunesse du pays, analyse le phénomène : « Le sens d’appartenance au sein de la communauté marocaine de bloggers est très aigu. Se plaçant entre le monologue et le dialogue, le weblog dégage des commentaires. Un simple suivi des commentaires émis sur les blogs marocains prouve que le ‘blog-comment’ a aidé à l’émergence d’une communauté très soudée : la blogoma. Loin d’être un réseau professionnel ou une communauté axée sur un loisir ou une cause, la blogoma est, avant tout, un réseau relationnel de très haute qualité formé par des individus qui se lisent fréquemment. Les bloggers Marocains se connaissent très bien entre eux. »

On trouve pas mal de ressources sur les blogs marocains, sur le site Jankari.org (« Je partage donc j’existe »). Et on peut citer, entre autres, Le blog de Othmane, 22 ans, de Casablanca et qui veut faire de son blog « un espace de tolérance, de discussion et de réflexion autour de ce qui préoccupe l’humanité ». Ou encore Laila’z Blog, le blog, en arabe et en français, d’une jeune détentrice d’un BTS en génie informatique qui vit à Rabat. Un blog « Pour la Liberté d’Esprit, d’Imagination et de Sentiment, pour dévoiler tous ses Secret d’Enfance !!! »

Surprises égyptiennes

Les blogs algériens sont un peu en retard. « En 2005, le nombre de blogs traitant de l’Algérie et/ou faits par des Algériens se comptent sur les doigts de la main », regrette le blogger Hchicha. Effectivement, contrairement aux Algériens vivant à l’étranger ou aux jeunes Français d’origine algérienne qui se sont appropriés rapidement ce mode d’expression, les Algériens d’Algérie sont encore timides. On note celui de Fériale Baba Aissa, écrivain et plasticienne, celui de Sam, son Alger intime, ou encore Ya Rayi : « Jeune, Algérien, le raï est ma philosophie, l’espoir ma raison de vivre »...

Les vraies bonnes surprises viennent d’Egypte ! C’est dans ce pays, et en dehors des cyber-dissidents tunisiens, que l’on trouve les blogs les plus engagés. Sur Freedom for Egyptians, Rantings of a Sandmonkey ou The Big Pharoah, on peut lire des témoignages de première main sur ce qui se passe vraiment dans la rue égyptienne comme lors des dernières élections et des manifestations qui les ont suivies. Loin des versions officielles, les blogs se font les relais d’une vérité embarrassante pour le pouvoir et ont su s’imposer comme une véritable source d’informations.

Alaa et Manal parlent aux Egyptiens

Ils ont été aussi le lieu de virulentes campagnes contre le gouvernement en place, rassemblant de nombreux activistes. Ce qui fait même dire à certains analystes étrangers que les bloggers égyptiens seraient devenus une « force politique »... Parmi ces militants, le couple de plus en vue est sans aucun doute Alaa et Manal qui, sur leur blog Manalaa prennent position et exposent leurs points de vue avec une grande liberté de ton et beaucoup d’humour. A la réponse « 5 choses que je ferais avec 100 000 000 de dollars », Alaa répond notamment : « J’en donnerai un peu à Moubarak en échange de la démocratie (mais 100 000 000 de dollars sont-ils suffisants ?) » et Manal : « Voyager à travers le monde et acheter un serveur pour héberger les blogs arabes libres ».

Alaa, 23 ans, est l’un des leaders de la communauté des bloggers de son pays. Avec d’autres, il a réussi à organiser une manifestation par Internet qui a rassemblé 300 personnes au Caire, en juin dernier. A sa suite, trois autres bloggers égyptiens ont organisé une veille anti-terroriste à la bougie, après les attentats de Sharm el-Sheikh, le 23 juillet. Autre fait marquant : alors que la plupart des bloggeurs étaient concentrés au Caire, il en vient maintenant d’un peu partout dans le pays comme Miss Mabrouk of Egypt, basée à Maadi, Kareem Amer d’Alexandrie ou The Egypt Blog de Mamduh Shawqi qui habite Héliopolis (banlieue cairote).

Du blog à la prison

Mais ce déferlement de liberté de parole n’est pas sans danger pour les bloggers. Abdel Karim Nabil Soliman, 21 ans, en sait quelque chose. Cet étudiant de l’Université religieuse d’Al Azhar, au Caire, a été emprisonné par la Sécurité d’Etat après avoir publié plusieurs articles sur son blog, dans lesquels il critiquait l’islam... « Persécuter et enfermer des gens qui expriment leurs opinions n’est pas un fait nouveau en Egypte », écrivent Manal et Alaa sur leur blog. « Mais, à ma connaissance, Abdel Karim est le premier blogger égyptien à être détenu pour ses idées. J’ai bien peur qu’il ne soit pas le dernier. Nous sommes tous en danger (...) à cause de ces gens qui ne supportent pas que d’autres soient en désaccord avec eux sur des thèmes comme la religion. Malheureusement, ce genre de personnes est en majorité dans la société égyptienne. »

Le décalage entre les bloggers et leur société semble s’agrandir de jour en jour. Quand on a goûté à la liberté, même par écran interposé, difficile de s’en passer. Le jeune blogger tunisien de Sup’Comian Life écrit : « J’ai toujours été convaincu de la beauté des rencontres cybernétiques. Les blogs nous offrent bien plus que des rencontres, ils nous offrent des êtres dans leur plus grande sincérité, dans leur absolue fragilité. (...) Cherche-t-on du réconfort en bloggant, de l’amour, de l’attention, un défouloir, remplir un vide existentiel qui sommeille en chacun de nous ? (...) Dommage que notre société ne soit pas à l’image des blogs qu’elle engendre. Sans doute qu’elle le sera un jour. »


Blog Safer: The Anoniblogging Wiki

This wiki contains our five initial guides on how to blog more safely.

Across the globe, countries that discourage free speech have followed their citizens into the blogosphere. According to one count, in the last two years at least 30 bloggers (and there are no doubt more) have been interrogated, arrested, tortured and sentenced to long prison terms for the "crime" of speaking critically about their governments. Regardless of your culture, your country, your politics or religion, we believe you deserve to speak your mind without falling afoul of state power. Unfortunately, what you deserve and what you get are not always the same thing. So, for those of you who wish to speak out on your blogs, but who do not wish to risk imprisonment or worse for doing so, we have prepared guides that will help you to blog more safely by blogging more anonymously.

But please note: Blogging can never be completely anonymous. With enough time, resources and political will, a group or government can discover who you are. We cannot guarantee that even if you follow the instructions on these guides to the letter that you will run no risk. You always take a chance when you speak your mind to people who cannot tolerate dissent. But we hope that these guides will enable you to minimize those risks, or at least be more aware of them.

Please think of what we've done here as a starting point. We encourage you to expand, update and edit the existing guides. If your country, area or language is not represented, we hope you will take advantage of the resources we have provided and build your own anonymous blogging guides. Above all, as you help to develop this resource, we wish you to stay safe and free and speaking to the world as your conscience dictates.

A wiki is a web site that anyone can make changes to and all previous versions are permanently viewable in an archive. To make changes here you can log in with any name and email, and the word "blogsafe4u". We hope that these guides will improve with user participation. For help using this wiki, see Wiki Style. To learn more about wikis in general see Wikipedia's definition of wiki.


This wiki is a Spirit of America project. Donations to support it are much appreciated.

Saudia Arabia (in Arabic); also useful for bloggers in other Arabic-speaking countries that limit free speech. The live, editable version is here ArabicAnonymousBloggingGuide. Download Word version of Arabic Anonymous Blogging Guide here.

Which role can Arab bloggers play in turning the Arab world in hi-tech region

Here is an excellent exapmle
Sixty years after the revolution engineered by Chairman Mao, China is in the midst of a different revolution - of a digital variety.

Chinese flag
Symbols of Communist China now sit alongside those of capitalism
Since Mao's death in 1976, China has changed enormously, racing to catch up with the rest of Asia.

Mobile phones and cameras have become must-haves - everywhere you go, people are talking, texting, and surfing.

An explosion of capitalism has given cities like Shanghai and Beijing futuristic skylines. Big business and consumer technology alike have found a new home here.

The country is already the world's largest producer of mobile phones, PCs and cameras, which it can churn out in their millions - and all because of China's biggest resource: people.

It is worth taking a minute to look at the statistics, because they are truly amazing. China is the world's most populous country, with 1.3 billion people.

On size alone, it is fast becoming a technology superpower and it almost has no choice in the matter. For example, even though only 8% of its people have access to the internet, this equates to 100 million people online, second only to the US.

The Chinese Government is very keen to make sure its internet infrastructure is up to the job. It is quite literally bringing its people up to speed.

Dorothy Yang, research director at IDC Analysts, told Click: "About 70 to 80% of internet users use broadband. One reason is that broadband access is quite cheap in China - it only costs about $10-15 a month for unlimited internet access."

Phone love

No longer just a tech producer, China is becoming a gargantuan tech consumer.

Mobile phone user passes a phone-shaped balloon
Population: 1.3bn
Net penetration: 8%, or 100m people (second largest in world)
Mobile market: 380m phones (largest in world)
China is dotted with rabbit warrens of small electronics boutiques, selling everything from known brands to home-made kit, multi-coloured CDs to 2GB memory cards. No-one can accuse the Chinese of being behind the times.

It will come as little surprise that China is now the world's largest cell phone market, with more than 380 million mobiles. And, just like internet penetration, the number is rising at an impressive rate.

Just like the rest of the world, they are in love with their phones.

But perhaps here, more than in most countries, phones have an added value. In a place where public displays of affection and freedom to say what you want are still not to be taken for granted, mobile phones offer new privacy for conversation and romance.

Walk into a mobile phone store and you are offered only two choices of network, but a multitude of home-made brands of handset, some designed to satisfy even the most demanding user: I found one box that was a MP3 player, an MPEG4 video player, a PDA, a two megapixel camera with flash and a video camera.

Nonetheless, despite all the bells and whistles, the home-made jobs often lack the style and glamour of the established brands, which most Chinese still opt for.

Entrepreneurial flair

China's reputation as a source of cheap labour and cheap goods is being challenged - there is also innovation here.

People are surprised by China because it's been like a sleeping lion for years. Now it's starting to jump
Jack Ma, entrepreneur
In 2000, Click spoke to Jack Ma, a budding Chinese entrepreneur who had dreams of setting up a web service aimed at connecting traders across China, to help them find the best price for goods and services.

Five years on, he is one of the richest men in the country. He runs a range of online marketplaces, under the brand name Alibaba, including TaoBao, a rival to eBay, and an online payment system.

In China, business is a very personal thing, but Jack seems to have persuaded people that they can do business on the web.

He says: "The internet is a community; don't think it's just computers. Only if you build your website like a community can your company grow fast."

As to whether China can become a technology superpower, Jack believes this will take time and luck.

Mobile phone user in China
Chinese consumers have a vast choice of tech toys at their disposal
"Today I don't think people should have expectations of that. It is true that China is growing very fast on the internet, but the other challenge is encouraging innovation and creativity, which takes a very long time.

"People are surprised by China because it's been like a sleeping lion for years. Now it's starting to jump and people say: 'oh my God, it's growing so fast' but it's not that scary."

Jack also relishes challenging the dominance of the US in the technology world.

"Otherwise I would not compete with eBay or Google", he says.

"They could be very successful in the US, in the West, but in China? No, because we're more entrepreneurial than them, in China today.

"They were very entrepreneurial 25 years ago, but today they're not entrepreneurial at all. They're very corporate."

Spreading influence

China is so ready to compete with US technology that, in one particular case, it bought the company.

In December 2004, Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo did the unthinkable - it bought part of IBM. The part, that is, that makes PCs.

Lenovo was already China's largest PC maker but, after the IBM deal, it has shot up from 9th largest to 3rd largest PC manufacturer in the world.

Lenovo's Alice Li told Click: "It's a very important transaction for us. For Lenovo that acquisition makes us a truly international company.

"We've accumulated an international management team and reputable international brands - for example, Thinkpad - and all the patented technology related to that brand. And we also now have an immediate worldwide distribution network."

Lenovo seems determined to continue pushing the country's technology scene by thinking big and aiming high. It could very well become China's first truly international company.

China has the size, and it is showing signs of determination to spread its influence beyond its borders.

At the dawn of a new century, there is a new kid on the block.

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