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World Press Freedom Day May 3, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.

World Press Freedom Day today reminds us that censorship is another force muffling voices throughout the world. Booming online cultures in many Asian and Middle Eastern nations have led to aggressive government repression.

Reflecting the rising influence of Web reporting and commentary, more online journalists are jailed worldwide today than those working in any other medium. In 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists found, bloggers and other online journalists were the single largest professional group in prison, overtaking print and broadcast journalists for the first time.


The CPJ has released a special report on the 10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger. CPJ considers bloggers whose work is reportorial or fact-based commentary to be journalists and its report calls attention to online repression, an emerging threat to press freedom worldwide. Burma leads the dishonor roll.

In Turkmenistan (above) soldiers guard an Internet café.

The fight against censorship doesn’t just take place once a year. Emerging media technologies are creating a new model of empowering communities affected by abuses to document their own stories and advocate for change.

Check out the Freedom House “Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media.” The World Association of Newspapers has launched WorldPressFreedomDay.org as a clearing house of related information.

Online censorship frequently takes place when netizens attempt to discuss issues related to human rights. This is one of the reasons that human rights organizations in Europe and North America have historically spoken on behalf of communities affected by human rights abuses.

The old model of advocacy campaigns speak on behalf of communities. The downside of this strategy has been that communities around the world have been depicted in traditional and emerging media by employees of human rights organizations rather than actual residents of the community.

The Web is linking scholars, activists and journalists dedicated to the study of public and participatory journalism. The best practices will be showcased on the Web at these events:

The Soul of the New Machine conference will present case studies of Ceasefire Liberia, Drop-In Center, HiperBarrio, and El Nula Por La Pazas as examples of such capacity-building programs.

Other speakers will examine the roles of mapping, photography, data collection, animation, corporations, video, and social networks as they all relate to human rights documentation and advocacy. Remote viewing hubs have been set up in New York City, Bogotá, and Medellín.

The New York City gathering will highlight Foko Madagascar, and its experience using technology to protect human rights in Madagascar. Fora.tv will broadcast the entire conference live and for free on Monday and Tuesday.

A community of anti-censorship activists at Global Voices Advocacy document the latest developments related to censorship, create guides to protect anonymity and enable circumvention, and advocate for free speech every day.

Upcoming workshops on citizen journalism workshops will take place in Moscow on May 21 and 22 and in Bangalore on May 9.


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