Saturday, September 24, 2005

Getting to the truth

Reporters Without Borders now offers a free download of The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents. To put this into perspective:

Press Freedom Barometer 2005

Journalists killed = 50
Media assistants killed = 3
Journalists imprisoned = 112
Media assistants imprisoned = 3
Cyberdissidents imprisoned = 70

The Handbook offers tips on getting started; ethics; attracting search-engines; protecting your privacy and anonymity; and circumventing censorship in countries where blogging can be a life and death issue. Even for those of us in safer environments, it's an interesting read:

Most of the world’s authoritarian regimes are trying to control what their citizens read and do online. They’re getting better and better at blocking "objectionable" material, usually with technology bought from US firms. China is far and away the world champion. But it's felt the heat of competition in recent years. [Rivals include Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.]
- Julien Pain, "Internet-Censor World Championship," p.83 (p.43 in PDF)

Personal accounts include that of Yan Sham-Shackleton, author of Glutter. In 1989 she was in Hong Kong, supporting Chinese students' calls for democracy, when she heard the shots from Tiananmen Square over the radio:

We all know now that China will use tanks against those who seek democracy, but until then we did not. I think it was at that moment that Glutter was born in my head, when I heard the ending of the 1989 Democratic Movement on the radio, in a tunnel, with bright fluorescent lights. I was 15. [...] It is only tonight that I’m thinking that all this writing, all the photos and artwork I have done in the name of democracy, the cyber-protest I organized, the interviews I agreed to, and the stories I published in the name of free speech are not only because I fervently believe in it but also because it is a way to placate my subconscious. Blogging allows me to keep my promises to the dead.

And from the blurb following:

Yan Sham-Shackleton wants you to know she spent six weeks writing six versions of this article where she tried to record all she knows about blogging until she realized the beauty of the medium is that you can be yourself.
- Yan Sham-Shackleton, "I kept my promise to those who died," pp.47-8 (25-6 in PDF)

:) Go, bloggers. Sometimes it matters.