Thursday 15 May 2003

Bloggers United

The problem with bloggers is we're like a beast with many heads. You can take off one but two or three with spring up in it's place. This is democracy in action! Tim Berners-Lee needs to get the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the World-Wide Web, possibly jointly with the guys at Blogger.

Can I take this opportunity to express my unreserved support for my brother blogger in his time of need. I doesn't matter if the despot is an Iranian mullah or a Wanna-be Texan with a snarl, they are still Fascists with a capital "F" and should be exposed as such! They hide behind a book, or an office but they're all the same inside. In the end they will all loose.

The arrest of a Web logger renews animosities in Iran

On April 20, the eve of his 30th birthday, Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi made history: He became the first blogger to be arrested. In Iran, where newspapers are routinely shut down for mysterious reasons and where journalists are imprisoned without explanation, blogs, or weblogs, have emerged as a last bastion of personal freedom — and the latest perceived menace for the Iranian government to grapple with.

So Motallebi has become a symbol — to the Iranian government as well as to his supporters — of the Internet-savvy Iranian youth growing in numbers, of their need for a space for self-expression, and of a repressive government crackdown on any structure that creates such a space. Fellow members of the blogosphere are concerned that Motallebi is only the first scapegoat in what might become a new government preoccupation. “This is not about Sina,” says Pedram Moallemian, an Iranian blogger living in California. “The government has noticed this new area where free speech can flourish, and they want us to know that they’re watching us. Sina’s arrest is supposed to send a message.” Moallemian has responded with a message of his own: a 2,000-signature petition he wrote and circulated both within the Persian blogosphere and beyond. Top American bloggers like Buzz Machine’s Jeff Jarvis and the San Jose Mercury News’ Dan Gillmor, as well as Reporters Without Borders, have expressed support for Motallebi.

What’s striking about Motallebi is how uncontroversial he appears to be. A former film critic, he wrote about the arts for a reformist newspaper that was shut down in January. (The paper ran an American cartoon from 1937, in which the bushy eyebrows on the central figure resembled too closely those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). Motallebi’s weblog was accused by the government of containing interviews with foreign press, and he did post some of his already-published articles in their uncensored versions, but it seems that it all remained relatively benign, and his arrest was made on unspecified charges. One of the last entries in his now-dismantled blog was about Michael Jordan’s retirement, says his friend Hossein Derakhshan, a fellow blogger.

Derakhshan, an Iranian living in Canada who goes by the name of Hoder, has helped in the creation of many of the Persian blogs whose writers are now voicing support for Motallebi. Moallemian estimates that there are 50,000 blogs in Persian, an impressive number already, and more impressive when one takes into account the lack of Internet access for most Iranians. Technologically aware young Iranians lucky enough to have access have jumped at the opportunity to share their experiences, connect to other people, and communicate across cultures via the Web. People like Derakhshan and Moallemian have become instrumental in connecting Iranians with the rest of the world through sites that translate, explain, and link webpages. “Weblogging has opened a whole new window for self-expression,” says Derakhshan. But since the news of Motallebi’s arrest, some worried bloggers have already begun to self-censor, limiting their pages to personal, apolitical subjects. “This is disappointing, because it means that the government is winning,” says Moallemian. “The goal of the censors is to make people afraid to express themselves.”

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