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Human Rights Watch defends Egyptian blogger

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced to three years in prison this week. The Human Rights Watch issued a statement that can be read here. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said this in response to the sentencing:

“Maikel Nabil’s three-year sentence may be the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007. The sentence is not only severe, but it was imposed by a military tribunal after an unfair trial.”

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15

04 2011

Social media primary tool for young journalists

In a recent IREX report, journalist Namo Abdulla recounts that one of the most important resources a journalist can use is social media.This is important in parts of the world where censorship and cultural norms limit the public’s ability to write, release and read information.

Now that people are riding the tidal wave of Egyptian-style protests, social media is particularly important.

Students at universities in the Middle East are demanding more education in the area of social media, which lends itself to making all students citizen journalists…especially those studying journalism.

Abdulla writes: “Kurdish newspapers and magazines have a tendency to self-censor for cultural and political reasons. Now Facebook and blogs are the publisher of photos, poems and other items that would not be published in the traditional media.”

Read the full report here.

 

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28

02 2011

Who owns a story?

A blogger in Egypt recently wrote: “Al Jazeera owned Tunisia. Now, they own Egypt too.”

What does it mean to own a story? And in a place where journalists are being shoved out of the picture (or the country) does ownership fall into the hands of the citizens? When a journalist includes a byline they take some ownership of a story. When a newspaper or website publishes something, they also take ownership of the story.

As a journalist, every story becomes your own. After some time, this story becomes shared; the person interviewed owns it, the writer owns it, the editor owns it, the news agency owns it, and then the viewers own it…

Ownership in Egypt is changing now. If Al Jazeera really does “own” this story, then it is not strictly theirs. Last night, as Internet lines were opened to the public once again, Al Jazeera tweeted: “(We) urge people who have any images or video from the protests to submit it to us via: http://yourmedia.aljazeera.net

The Human Rights Watch distributed an article about why Egypt reversed the blackout. They write that the government is now “scared of its own people.” These are the people who are now in control.

Ownership is now in the hands of average people, involved in the protests. Right now, it is estimated that more than 1.2 million people are crammed into Tahir Square. And if even a small percentage of those people submitted a photo or video, then ownership would be shared.

Perhaps that’s how is should always be. But of course, that is still up for the people to decide.

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No Internet, no news?

The riots in in Egypt have led to the government shutting down all Internet systems, and blocking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. So what of the citizen journalists? Well, they are finding a way. Despite SMS disruptions, thousands of people have been sending photos of the dead bodies, messages that scream: “Yes, this is a bloody war.” Many tourists on vacation in Cairo, and bloggers from around the world are stepping into the battle zone and proclaiming that they will get information out, regardless of the bullets being shot at them.

Here are links to some of the (VERY GRAPHIC) images that Egyptian citizens journalists are sending out: http://yfrog.com/h2k7satj http://yfrog.com/h71e4mmj http://yfrog.com/h3b3uyoj

Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) is a blogger in Egypt and he recently tweeted: “This is how you know the Egyptian government is worried: it just shut off tourist access to the Pyramids. #Egypt

To make matters even more difficult for citizen journalists of the world, the word “Egypt” is now blocked in China. Nobody can search Egypt, or read about the riots. Perhaps this is the the Chinese government saying, “Don’t get any ideas, folks.” And still, the Chinese are attempting to use various microblogging systems to see more.

No, despite Internet interruptions, news is getting out, and it is making the Egyptian rulers look like foolish beasts.

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The identity crisis of Julian Assange

Dear Mr. Assange,

Congratulations. You are out on bail now. The sexual charges against you have been laid to the wayside, while your team of Wikileakers (hackers? citizen journalists?) are continuing business as usual. And by usual I mean, of course, the business of releasing top-secret Federal records into the hands of the general public.

Your desire for truth and transparency have led some to call you the supreme citizen journalist and a First Amendment hero (excluding the fact that your rights are void since you are Australian). Others have called you a scammer, a thief, a wannabe, and an attention whore. I would love to know, what title have you given yourself?

While the information you have released is interesting, thought provoking, and has certainly revealed flaws in the security systems of the US Government, I’m not sure what the information is useful for. I’m not sure of why you, especially, have such a strong desire for this kind of outing. I wonder why you do the work you do?

Does the general public, and in turn, do the citizen journalists of the world really need to know the meals ordered by the Prince of Saudi or dates of the imprisonments of Middle Eastern murderers? What purpose is there in allowing trained and untrained media professionals to spread this supposed news? And further more, is confidential information safe in the hands of citizen journalists?

I don’t expect you to answer these questions for me, Mr. Assange. Something tells me your interest is not in that of the citizen journalist, or the citizens in general; rather, you are more intrigued with the title you’ve been chasing for so long: anarchist celebrity hacker.

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News that masquerades as citizen journalism

With citizen journalism reigning as one of the primary sources of information, more and more news organizations are reporting information and portraying it as “rough cut.” More and more, they are including citizen videos and photos from onlookers. Many news channels incorporate Twitter segments and Facebook feeds into their live broadcasts.

Now, perhaps they are running short on funds and need to use the citizen news (highly unlikely for CNN and Fox, but who knows?). Perhaps big news companies really do think that the rough footage they are getting is more sincere than other footage. We have certainly seen examples of this dating back to the Vietnam war, when journalists were first embedded with the troops; since then, news corps have used shaky cam footage to get viewers.

However, at this point in time, I would argue that news organizations are using citizen journalists’ footage and information in order to get in on a trend. These companies find social media (including the Twitter, Facebook and blogs of the world) and citizen news style to be a trend that they can make bank cashing in on. In the past, these big news conglomerates thought citizen journalism was encroaching on their territory, but now the tables have turned. Real news needs to stop masquerading as citizen journalism.

Most recently, companies such as the UK Guardian have used a blog style to make their updates from the G20 Summit seem more current. They even have a notice on their page that reads: “This page will update every minute.”

There are enough bloggers out there in the world and the real journalists, as in the journalistic self-proclaimed news corporations, should stick to article writing, not blogging.

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