Hope through free speech and the free press

PHOTO: Press conference in Caracas, Venezuela

There is a reason for hope and it does not lay with well-funded professional politicians trying to make their way into the U.S. Senate or the White House. No, our hope, for the world at least, is through the power of global communication. Increased interconnectivity and greater technological prowess has allowed the voices of many, in dangerous or harshly censored countries, to come forth. An excellent project to come forth to help advocate, aggregate and increase the power of these voices is Global Voices Online, a project of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

As much as we try to impart a bit of coverage here on Why We Worry, it is truly humbling to find a website with such a vast and varied amount of voices who put themselves in harm’s way to bring you news of their lives and their troubles. Global Voices also has an active advocacy arm which “seeks to build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists”. Through their advocacy arm, they also have a great tutorial for those who, by necessity, need to blog anonymously from their home country.

The freedom of speech, freedom from censorship and the ability to say what you want, to criticize your government or stand up for yourself is something that is all too easy to take for granted in the Western world with our easy access to technology and long-standing traditions of free speech as a right. Though we are aware of paid journalists who die or are injured in the line of duty, it typically slips below the radar news of bloggers and other online citizens in developing nations being jailed, kidnapped, beaten, or killed. The Global Voices project is a powerful way for us to keep up with what is happening on the ground level in many of the nations overlooked by our mainstream media and to try and help give a presence to the multitude that lives behind walls of censorship and bad government.

Flickr photo of a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela by blogefi

4 Comments

  1. Ian

    I applaud the effort of these people and I think what they are doing is great for their countrymen. That said, there’s still a big part of the equation missing. They are talking, but who is listening? Does our mainstream media report on these things? If they do it certainly isn’t front and center like Britney Spears or Heath Ledger news.

    Relevant to this site and the blogs of those in oppressive countries: How will posting on those blogs lead to change? Chris and I have argued about this already, but how does dissent really lead to change? How many people protested the Iraq War? Look at the protests that occur at every G8 summit. I’m not saying dissent is impotent, but beyond just complaining, there has to be some sort of actual action that occurs.

  2. Cameron

    Well, I would imagine that in general free speech advocates in non-free countries would have a lot more riding on their dissent than your examples. Particularly since anti-government views can end in… harsh reprisals in some parts of the world. Anti G8 protesters and I would wager a fair amount of the dove movement just like seeing themselves on TV and feeling chic. So dissent that is both informed of the facts on the ground and that has something riding on the outcome is probably going to be more effective in getting the wheels turning. Just my two cents, though.

  3. Chris

    Excellent comments guys. I admit that I don’t know much about 2nd and 3rd world journalism or internet communication. I do know that blogging can have an impact in America though.

    Take the FISA controversy for example. Bloggers, like Jane Hamsher at Fire Dog Lake, pressured Chris Dodd to lead a filibuster against telecom immunity provisions. Bloggers also pressured Obama, Clinton and Edwards to take up the cause of preventing immunity. Whether the delays they’ve caused will actually lead to a victory in that case is up for grabs, but it is making a difference.

  4. Ian has a very good point and one that I wish I had thought of and included. I will say that the sad state of affairs that is celebrity news and how it trumps other more pertinent news in the media coverage seems to be most blatantly obvious in the US and UK with other nations devoting a lot of time and attention to the needs of developing and conflict-ridding nations (I’ll single out Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic for their efforts throughout the world).

    The sad thing is, and that I hope this blog as well other projects such as Global Voices that people are working on, do at least have some small part of influencing or opening the minds of people who would not regularly have contact or news from these parts of the world and get them interested. You start with one person, and build a nation of advocates and that nation of advocates, that society, elects those that (we hope) can make changes for the better.

    The current state of our society’s awareness and concern for these issues is minimal. Two of my good friends who have seen war in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, and Chechnya told me just as much – and they work mainly in the UK and NZ media. Money for celebrity coverage is a lot better (most freelance war journalists end up in debt up to their eyeballs and divorced a few times) and the changing nature of our media also effects the status of these journalists and the amount the mainstream media is willing to pay them for their dangerous occupation. And that is where anti-censorship projects come in, to not let that news go by the wayside and to give people who possibly never thought to speak out a real chance to voice their concerns about their world

    Thanks everyone for your comments, this is great.

    JM