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September 27 2011

Arab World: Nobel Peace Prize for Revolution Netizens?

Twitter is abuzz with excitement tonight as the names of Arab netizens are being circulated as possible candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for the roles they have played in the Arab revolutions.

Egyptians Wael Ghonim (@Ghonim) and Esraa Abdelfattah (@Esraa2008) along with the April 6th Youth Movement, are joined by Global Voices Online Tunisia author and Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni (@benmhennilina), who blogs at A Tunisian Girl, according to a Reuters report. The award will be announced on October 7.

"Free Revolution zone" image by Flickr user khalid Albaih (CC BY 2.0).

"Free Revolution zone" image by Flickr user khalid Albaih (CC BY 2.0).

Both Ghonim and Abdelfattah have contributed to the Egypt revolution through their cyber-activism. Ghonim shot to world fame after he was detained for 11 days during the Egyptian revolution. It later turned out that the Google executive was one of the administrators of a Facebook page in support of Khaled Said. We are all Khaled Said was set up to honour the memory of a young man from Alexandria, whose brutal murder at the hands of police officers sparked protests against police brutality. The January 25 revolution date itself was selected as it coincided with Police Day, a day young protesters chose to air their grieveances against police brutality and all of the regime's wrong doings.

Abdelfattah is one of the co-founders of the April 6 Facebook group, formed in 2008, to call for a day of general strike across Egypt in support of the workers in the textile district El Mahalla El Kubra. The Day of Anger, as it was known, acted as a trial run to the revolution, in terms of mobilising young people online and and using social networking to keep the world abreast with developments on the ground.

Like Ghonim, Abdelfattah too was arrested for her online activism.

While the Tunisian blogosphere has still not picked up on Ben Mhenni's speculation, Twitter is humming with Egyptians reacting to Ghonim's and Abdelfattah's news.

Omar Elhady congratulates the nominees:

مبروك لوائل و6 أبريل وإسراء، ترشيحكم لنوبل فخر شخصي لي، وتكريم لكل شباب مصر الأحرار ‎@Ghonim‏ ‎@GhostyMaher‏ ‎@Esraa2008‏
@Asdax: Congratulations to Wael, April 6 and Esraa. Your nomination for the Nobel peace prize is a personal source of pride for me and an honour for all of Egypt's young and free people

Dalia Mogahed explains:

: Nomination of @Ghonim and Israa for Nobel Peace prize is international community's way of giving props to #EgyptianRevolution as a whole.

Gigi Ibrahim asks:

@GSquare86: Whatever happened to nominating the Egyptian people of the revolution to the noble peace prize ?!!

And Ahmed Hassan Tantawy sums it up as follows:

@Tantawist: Many egyptian activists are jealous from Ghonim,Esraa & 6 April for being nominated for Nobel peace prize…what a shame #Fail #Egypt

Ghonim, in particular, came under fire for the nomination.

Arabista chimes:

@Arabista: @JustAmira #Ghonim doesn't deserve it. There are so many nameless heroes who were much more courageous. Hes just a better self publicist

And Tom Gara comes to Ghonim's defense saying:

@tomgara: @Arabista Really unfair to say that, the guy doesnt media whore in the slightest. Declines almost all foreign media requests. @JustAmira

Tarek Shalaby attempts an explanation.

: People underestimate the immense pressure on @Ghonim since his release and especially now with the nomination. He didn't choose any of this.

Mohammed Abdelfattah adds:

: All the support to @Ghonim and wishing to see him win the Nobel prize. A man of our generation is a pride for all of us.

Meanwhile, Libyan Ghazi Gheblawi has other concerns. He tweets:

@Gheblawi: Hope #Nobel peace prize stays away from Arab revolutions, credibility been tarnished many times, fear it trivialise genuine freedom struggle

May 12 2011

Nigeria: SaharaReporters: Africa's Wikileaks

Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters (SR), described as Africa's Wikileaks, needs no introduction in the Nigeria's public sphere.

Sahara Reporters is an online community made up of “citizens reporting the news and writing reports without barriers, oblivious of borders and regardless of frontiers“. The consistency and temerity with which SR has exposed corrupt public officials in Nigeria has earned this online medium a legendary stature in the country. By clipping down the gate keepers and allowing air into the public domain, Sowore's SR has and continues to, unmask the big masquerade that milks the common good of one of Africa's largest nation.

Global Voices Online:  What is SaharaReporters and how did it start?

Omoyele Sowore: SaharaReporters was created to be liberating tool for communities under siege from tyranny and oppression. By asking citizens to “report themselves,” our idea was to create both a news platform and, more importantly, a media movement making use of a wide range of technological innovations in order to freely exchange information – especially information that liberates and expands our democratic space.

This concept of SaharaReporters was many years in the making. It was formally established in 2006.

Omoyele Sowore (Photo credit: chatafrikarticles)

GV:  With your background, no one should be startled with the whistle blowing status of Saharareporters. Nonetheless, one cannot but ask what pushes you to remain consistent with this great but also perilous job?

OS: I started down this path at the tender age of 10. Since that time, I have faced many dangers and death threats, but the greater threat in my opinion is to leave our societies in the hands of unscrupulous individuals who run our nation states into ruin. The fact that our simple demands for decent conditions of living and civil rights are met by state-sponsored threats and orchestrated violence makes clear why things can’t continue the way they are.

GV:  How does SaharaReporters recruit citizen reporters?

OS: Over the years, we have built a relationship based on values and conviction with citizens in the trenches, on the streets and the frontlines who, often at personal risk to themselves, share news tips, photos, videos, documents and other items that would be censored or ignored in the government-approved news media. In hopes for a better and safer society, they step forward to give their time, resources and energy to report for SaharaReporters. These great “citizen reporters” come forward not looking for pay but to be part of a new media voice that cannot be muscled, compromised or intimidated.

GV: How do you sift out the truth from the numerous inputs you get from your ‘citizen reporters’?

OS: We have published close to 5,000 reports since 2006 – which we closely read, critically checked and double checked. The new thing we bring to the table is evidence-based reporting. Often, our reports are based on raw evidence, sometimes highly sensitive evidence.  These stories are read and checked by “citizen verifiers” and citizen editors; the next stage is citizen publishers.

GV: Has SaharaReporters or its journalists been in trouble with the government? Have they received death threats or any other forms of intimidation?

OS: It is hardly a surprise that intimidation, threats and harassment come with the territory of our work. We tend not to pay attention. In their efforts to silence or intimidate critics, government created a “security threat” list at all points of entry and exit in Nigeria and placed our names at the top of the list. When Mr. Goodluck Jonathan came to power, his aides approached me to ask that we apply to have our names removed from the list. Our response was simple - whoever put our names there, could just as easily have the names removed. I told the contact I knew we would soon be back on the list so long as we kept up our corruption exposés. They have bombarded our network, trying to bring it down with denial of service attacks. Punitive libel lawsuits have been filed against us - quietly encouraged and sponsored by Nigerian officials in the US. Two such suits are still pending with a combined value of $75 million in damages sought by two lawyers involved with Nigerian embassy real estate deals in New York, Maryland and Washington DC.

GV:  What do you think is the future for online investigative journalism in Africa?

OS: Online journalism will thrive because it affords anonymity and safety from the risks and dangers faced by regular journalists. However, its success over the long term will depend on the level of commitment of the news practitioners and the support from the community. The Internet alone is not a sufficient force for change.

GV:  What are the greatest achievements of SaharaReporters to date?

OS: Some reports have saved lives and others have inspired series of actions and reactions. What has really made a difference are the never seen before videos, photos and texts that are published by SaharaReporters in ways that have profoundly changed the media landscape as well as the Nigerian society. As far as a major achievement, I think our reports on the corrupt former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, which I started on another platform in 2005 and continued on SaharaReporters, were the most devastating. We started with a visit to his mansion in London to discover his Bentley parked in a garage and continued with the story until his extradition to the UK last month. I’m also proud of our reports on the noxious oil spill by ExxonMobil in Akwa Ibom State at a time when the Gulf oil spill in the U.S. was major news. Just as the US media was showing flamengos dripped in crude, we brought out several photos of wild dogs, birds and fishermen affected by the spills. Somehow, the world didn't pay enough attention to the story and ExxonMobil got away with it - in our tradition, it was a great story. Equally important was our exclusive reporting on the prolonged illness of former Nigerian leader, Umaru Yar'Adua and his eventual death. The series of reports we did was of great benefit to the Nigerian society and other reporters in Nigeria as we had facts and figures that were detailed and on point. Yar'Adua died in May 2010 just as majority of the mainstream media in Nigeria claimed he was getting better and planning to resume back to work.
Also in December 2009, we got the attention of the world by providing reports that were the first to identify the Nigerian “Underwear Bomber” Farouk Abdul Mutallab including the first ever real photo of him that eventually ended up on CNN and the BBC.

GV: Does the fact that Sahara Reporters is an online news source make it easier for you to deal with sensitive stories?

OS: Most newspapers and journals have online versions now. What makes SaharaReporters stand out in the crowd is the lengths we go to present hard-hitting investigative reporting, surprising to some for the quantity and quality of information presented. As Wikileaks has done to a media uproar, we are challenging government secrecy and championing the public’s right to know.

GV:  How come SR always breaks the news, especially those that other mainstream Nigeria media tend to avoid?

OS: The mainstream media in Nigeria has run its course; its years of courage and bravado are now long in the dust. Run by so many rich barons, they have become lazy and complacent. In my years of student activism, the Nigerian press was so powerful it was the institution that people turned to for deliverance from the military. But the mainstream media sadly is a shadow of its former self, reeling from its self-inflicted tragedy occasioned by compromises.

GV: Do you think the Nigerian press is free? Kindly give the reasons behind your stance.

OS: The Nigerian press was once free - they fought for that and gained respect because they took on the military. That freedom is now lost to selfishness and the power of the (king’s) purse.

GV: Evgeny Morozov’s Net Delusion asserts that the Internet is doing more harm than good for democracy. Some have seen governments also hiring bloggers and planting news in the blogosphere. Is the Internet an agent of change or just “cyber-utopian”?

OS: Like every innovation, the Internet could be a force for good or bad, it could promote new ideas or misinform people, it could be a force for liberation or put people in information lockdown. But overall I think it has done more good than harm. The internet is the new form of virtual democracy. It has opened new frontiers for citizen participation in governance. That it delivered four revolutions in the Middle East in less than a month is not too bad!

As to government attempts to plant stories, it has never worked and it won’t work. The internet soon reveals the truth, as when government tries to secretly insert itself in any discussion. On SaharaReporters we see that all the time, it comes mostly from those who announce in every commentary that they are neutral, balanced and objective.

GV: The Omidyar Network – established in 2004 by eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam – recently gave a grant of $450,000 to SR.  What are your plans?

OS: Coincidentally, I bought my first laptop for SaharaReporters on Ebay for $600. This latest grant is spread over three years. We plan to start working on making SaharaReporters a full multimedia outfit online. About a month ago we launched SaharaTV, from where we discussed and reviewed the Nigerian elections live online. It was a powerful experience.

GV: There have been muffled accusations that SR sometimes tends to exaggerate or is unbalanced. What is your reaction?

OS: Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I challenge you to find a news organization with whom no one finds a flaw. If a reader finds us unbalanced or biased, their views are welcome on our pages.  There is no official line and unlike other news sites, we publish views with which we might disagree.

GV: How do you intend to allow more ‘sunlight’ into the Nigerian public sphere; breaking the ‘single story’ by mentoring many more Sowores – who would not ask for their right but grab it?

OS: What we experience on the website is a dynamic interaction of different thought processes, a clashing and mixing of ideas, where you publish a report and people come forward to dissect, redirect and make additions and sometimes provide better ideas than the original report. Sometime you watch a story develop and through this participatory infusion of ideas, it grows a life of its own.  I am seeing better writers and reporters on the site every day, making measured comment. The real mentors are the readers and commentators, they are my mentors. It is not the other way round.

GV: What would you like to be remembered for?

OS: That I challenged my countrymen and women to step up to the plate, that I provided a venue for them to come forward, tapping the courage inside them and using the wonders of this new technology to demand their rights and demand that justice be done to their share in the great wealth of Nigeria that is legitimately ours.

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April 22 2011

Malawi: Political Science Lecturer Talks About Blogging Academic Freedom

When Malawi's Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito summoned political science senior lecturer Dr Blessings Chinsinga over an example he gave in the lecture room, he had no idea that the incident will appear on Boniface Dulani's blog. And when it did, Malawi media picked and followed the rest of the developments which have left the University of Malawi's two main colleges closed for a month now.

Global Voices author Victor Kaonga wanted to hear from Dulani about his blogging experiences especially following the Chinsinga episode which has turned into a movement fighting for for academic freedom.

Malawian Lecturer Boniface Dulani. Photo source: Michigan State University Flickr page.

Question: Why did you start blogging?

I have to give Steve Sharra - a Malawian and Africanist blogger extraordinaire- the credit on this one. He prodded me to put my old journalism skills to practice by starting the blog. My love for blogging has since grown as it has provided me with a medium for airing my thoughts without editorial deadlines and word restrictions

Did you ever expect that one of your blog posts could be the source and reference of the fight for academic freedom in Malawi?

Far from it. When I resisted Steve’s initial push to start the blog, I had very low expectations about blogging generally and particularly about my ability to garner the kind of readership that my blog has attracted so far. I had always thought that not many people would be interested to read my thoughts, especially when there are so many news media that provide timely commentary on Malawian politics and other issues. On the issue of academic freedom, it never crossed my mind that of the many rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the Malawi Constitution, this one would come under threat in the way it has. I had hoped that gone were the days when academics lived in fear and had to choose between self-censorship or leaving our beautiful country for faraway lands that provide guarantees of academic freedom. It was such a major shock when the Chinsinga episode happened.

Many media houses in Malawi heard about the summoning of Dr Blessings Chinsinga by the Inspector General of Police after you published the story on your blog. How do you feel when you see many stories written and published in the media based on your post which has since become very influential?

I am glad that I was able to bring this unfortunate episode to the attention of colleagues in Malawi and around the world, and I am thankful to all those who provided the link to my blog on their facebook pages and other social networking sites. Despite the interest that the story generated, including the spike in traffic to my blog, I would rather the incident had never happened and the situation remained as normal than celebrate this sad episode that provides yet another piece of evidence on Malawi’s slide to dictatorship.

You wrote in an email to me that you are now afraid to be in Malawi. Why?

Well, I know Blessings as well as any of my colleagues in the University of Malawi. Compared to the pointed examples that some of us give in the hope of equipping the future generation of Malawian policymakers with contemporary skills to tackle the country’s myriad challenges, Blessings is very mild in his criticism. My fear then stems from the observation that if a moderate like Blessings can be summoned by the Inspector General of Police, what would prevent them from dragging some of us to court with the possibility of imprisonment, and God forbid, death? I am afraid Malawi has become a society where people that provide honest commentary like Blessings are being victimized while opportunistic praise-singers and hand-clappers keep on being rewarded. This is scary, not only from a personal security perspective, but also for the future prospects of our beautiful country. It is an entrenchment of a dangerous brand of patrimonial politics that should have no room in the 21st century

Do you regret having published that story?

Not at all. I can never have regrets for telling the truth as I see it. The unfortunate events that I described in that story happened. Again, I would rather be writing some positive stories about Malawi, but there is very little that is positive to say about the Malawi politics at the moment.

Have there been any changes in the number of visits to your blog since the story about Chinsinga started running?

There has been a big spike in the number of visitors to the site. The Chinsinga story attracted the most hits of all the stories that I have ever posted and also attracted the highest number of comments. There was also a dramatic increase in the number of individuals signing up to follow the blog, which went up almost threefold. Another notable feature is the traffic from Africa, particularly Malawi. Prior to the Chinsinga saga, the majority of visitors to the blog were from the United States and Europe. However, since then, there has been a surge in the number of unique and returning visitors from Malawi and within the African continent.

When one, especially a Malawian, reads your blog, one gets the impression that you are very upset with the current president and administration. In fact in one of your posts, you have stated that two cabinet ministers (of Justice and Education) have been the worst performers. Considering the political situation in Malawi today, do you think you would have been able to vent off such sentiments in any other medium other than through a blog?

Blogging provides a unique space where one can write freely, without fear or restrictions. The blog also gives me the widest scope of topics to comment on. I remember when I used to write a weekly column in a Malawi newspaper sometime back, there were many times when I just felt there was nothing worthy writing for the week and yet had to submit something to my Editor. Although the media in Malawi, especially the print media, does provide some space for the type of political commentary like the one on the blog, one is often shackled by editorial policy. In any event, editors might feel compelled not to publish some of the thoughts that are deemed to be too confrontational and likely to elicit negative reaction from government such as the piece on the Ministers of Education and Justice. There is no such pressure with blogging. I write and post on topics that I feel like commenting on at a time of my choosing!

How do you feel after publishing any posts regarding politics in Malawi?

The blog for me is like a personal platform from where I can speak and reach out to the world about my thoughts on politics in Malawi. I take particular pleasure in the comments that some of my stories generate and love especially the critical comments that challenge me to rethink some of my own positions.

Has your blog ever been blocked?

Thankfully, not yet.

What do you think is the future of citizen media in Malawi with regard to democracy and governance?

There is a big and growing role. While during the Kamuzu era, events in Malawi would take forever to reach the rest of the world, today’s events can reach all corners of the world in a matter of seconds through various citizens’ media channels. Looking at some of the global reaction to the issue of academic freedom in Malawi, it is encouraging to note that the citizen media is already playing such an important role in promoting transparency and holding political elites accountable for their actions. All these help to support and nurture democracy and good governance in our beloved country. Sadly though, our government in Malawi does not appear to be moving fast to embrace this new media, which has the potential to enable them not only to get important feedback on policy choices, but also to reach out to the public in ways that were not possible in the recent past.

In some of your posts and online conversations, you have declared that as an academic, you will not keep silent. What do you mean?

In my view, events such as Chinsinga’s summoning by the Inspector General of the Malawi Police are meant to cow people and silence critical voices. I have, however, always held the view that criticism, if embraced and acted on by government, can serve a positive purpose and facilitate better choice. To give in and become silent due to threats and intimidation from the police and security agents is, in my view, equal to giving up on Malawi. Since we don’t have much choice on our nationality, I will therefore not be silent but will continue speaking out. And thankfully, many colleagues within the University of Malawi, civil society and the citizen media also refuse to be silenced. I take pride in being part of these communities.

Do you think you need any support from online activists in the fight for academic freedom and other human rights in Malawi?

Certainly. As my good friend, Henry Chingaipe, would say, those who sleep on their rights suffer what they have to suffer under bad regimes. Online activism provides an opportunity for ordinary Malawians to stand up and defend their own rights and influence others to do so. Remember, the time when Malawians, including academics, struggled for their rights and freedoms during the Banda era: the news would be passed on through letters that had sometimes to be smuggled out of prison. As a result, their messages and appeals for help took forever to reach the outside world. By the time responses and messages of support began to trickle back in, it was often too late – some were either already dead, in prison while others could not wait and had to free the country. The online media today and the teams of online activists have the capacity to reach out to a global audience and elicit timely responses before it is too late for today’s freedom fighters. In countries like ours where patrimonial politics has taken root and the propensity for non democratic governance is high, academics can provide a lead as voices of reason in the defence of rights. Their stand to defend their freedom, should encourage us all to not let the political elites trample on rights that we have by virtue of being human beings.

Share with me comment/feedback highlights that you have received since you posted the story about Chinsinga.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People are shocked that Malawi appears to be headed back to the dark days of dictatorial rule. However, there is at the same time determination that we should not allow a few selfish individuals to take us back to those days. On another note, after I published the story on the blog, I also received an e-mail from the Institute of International Education in the United States asking me to pass on information to Blessings about the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF), which provides temporary fellowships for established scholars whose lives or careers are threatened in their home countries. This for me, demonstrates, yet again, the power of blogging.

Your last word.

Let me end with a quotation from one of the commentators on the Chinsinga story, Bertha Lilian Munthali. She writes: “Don’t ever under estimate the power of the people. In togetherness and oneness, there lies our strength, the very same people who sang praises and voted for you, the same can peacefully ask you to let go”. Amen to that and thank you for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. To my fellow bloggers, I say don’t underestimate the power of this medium. There is much that can be achieved using this platform.

* Read our article about Boniface Dulani's post and another article by Steve Sharra about classroom spies and academic freedom in Malawi.

March 31 2011

Ghana: Best Blogs Awards for Ghana

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

The Tripbase Travel award is only given to the blogs that are the top of their respective class and are some of the best in the field. Here you will see the best blog awards for Ghana.

Kenyan Bloggers Form an Association; BAKE

Written by Njeri Wangari

On Friday 25th March, several Kenyan bloggers held a meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, under the newly formed BAKE ( Bloggers Association KEnya). The meeting was the 4th in an initiative by some of Kenyas veteran bloggers.

There have been numerous complaints, accusations and in some instances, outright battle of words simmering between the blogger community and the mainstream media with cases of plagiarism, copyright infringement and a general lack of appreciation by the mainstream media on the impact that blogging has had in generation and delivery of news and information content in Kenya. This standoff has been aptly covered in a recent blogpost by Jacque Ndinda titled, WriteThinking: Plagiarism-masters of copy paste.

Kenyan Bloggers at a previous Barcamp. Photo source: Njeri Wangari

Her main bone of contention is in how the mainstream media owners are downplaying this as the culprits when exposed through numerous emails to the editor do not receive any disciplinary action. More often than note, a simple “we are sorry”, is offered to the blogger with no discussion on compensation or acknowledgment.

This, among other issues, as well as opportunities for bloggers were some of the items in the agenda at the Friday meeting.

The turnout was quite impressive with more than 20 bloggers in attendance. Most were attending for the first time as the original members had been caught up in other matters.

A blog post by Kachwanya, one of Kenya’s most prolific bloggers, laid out the full agenda as well as the aim and objectives of the association.

Our aims will be primarily
1.Create and promote high quality online local contents and innovations
2.Create viable online Marketing channel for the Kenyan companies
3. Have fun online

One of the things that received a lot of emphasis was the need to build a community where bloggers supported each other and worked closer together to achieve a common objective which is to provide relevant and useful local content online.

During the discussion on revenue generation which most bloggers didn’t view as an incentive to their blogging quest, most admitted that despite signing up with international online advertising companies, there was very little to show for it with most eventually withdrawing from the service. Thus the association will among other things, come up with a more realistic and relevant ad platform that will involve local advertisers.
This, it was noted, would be more effective and would earn bloggers that extra penny which though not sought desperately, would afford bloggers some stipend.

Wanjiku, one of Kenya’s veteran bloggers, announced that she had registered the domains and for use by the BAKE community.
Some of the activities that BAKE is organizing are:-

• Bloggers expo after every three months.
• Bloggers meet up or happy hour every month.
• Blog competition on topical topics with huge rewards at the end for the winners
• Blog Awards at the end of the year

Bloggers in attendance were informed that Collins Mbalo who runs the blog ‘A Nairobian’s Perspective’ and a fellow Global Voices author, would offer his advice on legal matters like plagiarism and copyright infringement among others.

Many agreed that this is a great initiative and that it was about time that Kenyans bloggers started speaking in one voice.

We thus look forward to see a lot of good things coming forth in the days to come. There was already some rumors that a large corporation is in negotiations with BAKE for the sponsorship of the first Bloggers Expo. Let us hope that this will spur growth in not just blogging but also in the relevance of the content.

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah: Opening doors to African women's bedrooms

Written by Fiona Leonard

Not everyone likes what Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah has to say (Warning: The blog contains some content only suitable for adults. You must be at least 18 to browse the blog). A recent visitor to her blog asked:

I was wondering. Are you Kenyan? .. I think you are. What is this obsession with sex that you Kenyans possess. This is maybe the 5th Kenyan blog talking about sex…Have a grip of yourselves people…

Nana Darkoa replied:

Elyas, I am not Kenyan I am Ghanaian. Perhaps you should learn not to judge people with little or no knowledge. Your assumption that Kenyans are obsessed with sex is based on reading 5 blogs on sex authored by Kenyans? What rubbish!

Her visitor was quick to respond:

Nana. I did not jump to any conclusion. There is no difference between you Ghanaians and the Kenyans. You both happen to be Bantus. Therefore, you people are both fascinated by sex. Do you really think that this is the way to enlightenment. It is apparent that ya’ll trying to imitate the western culture. Please, stick to your culture and quit trying to be something your not.

Ghanaian blogger Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah. Photo courtesy of Nyani Quarmyne (

Such comments are, however, the exception rather than the rule on Nana Darkoa’s blog Adventures from the bedrooms of African women. For the past two years, Adventures has provided a forum for frank and intimate discussions of sex and sexuality amongst African women and men. It was Nana Darkoa’s hope that the blog would be a space in which to continue a discussion that started two years ago during a holiday away with a group of girlfriends. In the space of a few days, they explored issues and secrets at a level she had not previously enjoyed. It was a conversation she didn’t want to end, so she teamed up with close friend, Abena Gyekye, and took it online.

But she wanted the blog to be more than a place to gossip about sex. Nana Darkoa is adamant that women should be encouraged to take responsibility for both their sex lives and their sexual pleasure. In Ghana, she believes that, for the most part, Victorian norms proliferate around the subject of sexuality. Sex education, where it exists at all, is very simplistic – if you have sex you will get pregnant, and the only solution is abstinence. That, however, is not where many Ghanaians – who make up the majority of her 10,000 visitors per month - want the conversation to end.

Wow this has been a very interesting read. I just found out about this blog and I am in awe of many of the posts. I had to comment on this one.

Nana Darkoa believes that there is a lot of curiosity in Ghanaian society about sex, particularly among young adults who are exploring and experimenting sexually. By not discussing sexuality openly, she thinks society automatically creates mystery and fear around the topic and a sense that what you’re doing is wrong. By contrast, Adventures provides a safe and anonymous space in which to discuss a range of topics. And with comments on the site often running longer than the posts themselves, it is clear that her readers value the opportunity to share and question their attitudes and experiences as well as the experiences of others.

I have found it interesting reading all your views. I must say I have learnt from the post and the comments as well. Nevertheless I must say that there is point that has not been well elaborated so, I decided to write about from my own experience.

With blog articles and comments often exploring intimate subjects, there are those who consider Nana Darkoa to be ‘brave’ for even attempting to write about such topics. She is quick to dismiss the notion that she is brave – a word she believes is better attributed to people who take real risks. Rather than being a brave move, starting the blog seems a natural extension of her many varied roles – whether as a Programme Officer in charge of fundraising and communications at the African Women’s Development Fund, co-founder of fashion label Maksi Clothing or as founder of the feminist women’s empowerment group Fab Fem. Feminism is at the heart of her blog and all her endeavors. On International Women’s Day she wrote passionately about coming out as a feminist:

Oh so being a feminist is being part of this movement that wants to change the world in which we currently live in? That wants to create a world that is safer for girls, women and communities at large. Well sign me up for that movement!

Feminism and sex are but two of many topics that are explored on the site. Blogs are just as likely to explore long distance relationships, domestic violence or homosexuality. Topics are often driven by requests from her readers, or from issues that are raised in comment discussion that she feels warrant a blog of their own. One subject which she is hoping to explore in more depth is how notions of sexuality fit culturally. She is not convinced that current ‘traditional values’ are consistent with African culture. Nana Darkoa believes we should be questioning whether the level of control that women have today over their lives is drawn from traditional African culture or has been imposed more recently.

Ironically, one concern Nana Darkoa has about her blog, is that many of her guest contributors and commenters tend to be men.

Wandered into this thread randomly from someone’s blog link, and it makes for an interesting read. Myself, I’m a white male, and hopefully not unwelcome to comment.

The prevalence of men visiting the site is, she believes, a product of men having more access to public spaces and a greater willingness to discuss sex openly. Despite it's growing community of male supporters, Nana Darkoa is adamant that she writes only for women.  It is her hope that those women (and men) will continue to engage with Adventures and help the blog to keep pushing boundaries - boldly exploring thought provoking issues and drawing followers and contributors from across the continent.

March 25 2011

Kenya: Vote for Nairobi Nights Blog

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Vote for me: “I have been nominated for The Deutsche Welle International Best Of Blogs Awards. Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. As they say on their website : The Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards - The BOBs - honors websites in 11 languages that champion the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression… Too much for freedom pf expression.”

March 01 2011

Ghana: Interview with Kajsa Hallberg Adu

Written by Linda Annan

It has been a little over a decade since Peter Merholz coined the word “blog” from Jorn Barger’s “weblog.” As tech-savvy hands nimbly explored this platform that facilitated personal diary-like entries, newbies caught on, and so did developing countries. Certainly the world has witnessed the transformation of blogs into strong political and social platforms; it is interesting how much Africa is advancing in its garnering of avid bloggers, one of them being Ghana-based Swedish lecturer and freelance writer, Kajsa Hallberg Adu.

Kajsa Hallberg Adu

Adu is the founder of GhanaBlogging, “a group of bloggers in/outside Ghana who blog about Ghana,” the site clarifies.

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to conduct an e-mail interview with Adu about her experience as a blogger in Ghana as well as her thoughts on the future of blogging in Ghana:

What's your professional background?

I have a Masters in Political Science and currently teaching at a small liberal arts college in Ghana, Ashesi University College.

How and why did you get into blogging? And why Ghanablogging?

In 2006 I was living in Paris and started blogging to keep in touch with family and friends and write about my impressions of my new life. At the time, some Swedish friends had blogs at home. I have always loved to write and thought it was a brilliant forum, but couldn't really find my own tone or topic. However, when I knew I was going to move to Paris, I found myself reading blogs, not books, about Parisian life. I think that spurred the decision to start blogging myself.

In Paris, I was invited to a blog meet-up, hosted by blogger Petite Anglais (who later got a book deal out of her blog). It was great to meet with other bloggers and it turned out two of them worked within the same big organization as me at the time!

So in 2007, when I moved to Ghana I continued blogging and was always on the lookout for Ghanaian blogs. When I had found enough of them, I organized the first meet-up with a friend. It was in July 2008, and eight bloggers came. We decided on the name GhanaBlogging as we wanted the action in the name. We are all doers.

Kajsa Hallberg Adu giving a talk about blogging

Where do you see the future of blogging in the context of Ghana?

It is just starting out. The first year of Ghanablogging we grew from 8 to 61 blogs, and now…well, we are struggling with handling all the applications to come onboard. As Internet gets more accessible, more people in Ghana are given the opportunity to blog. Ghanablogging is this year going to register as a legal entity and I hope that with that we can apply for funds and maybe hire someone to help us out in organizing ourselves better. We would also like to educate young people and journalists on blogging, spread it even further!

Personally, I love the shift from online presence to real life meetings. I have gotten more friends out of blogging than I ever hoped for!

What are you referring to when you say you love the shift from online presence to real life meetings?

When people think of blogging, they think about a lonely person in front of a computer, when in reality it really is a network! Blogging comes with belonging somewhere, blogging is an activity that has strengthened my relationship to Ghana. So yes, my blog is online, but many real life meetings have come out of it!

What happens when Ghanablogging becomes a legal entity? Will anything change?

Yes, we can do projects with budgets. Maybe in the future we can hire someone to manage the now large group of bloggers that are members and maybe think about new ways of providing them service. With a formal structure, we can also be clearer towards the world about what and who Ghanablogging is, we get invited to many programs and initiatives, but at the moment do not have the capacity to attend all of them or the founding documents to judge if that program is something we want to do.

How do you think active blogging can affect Ghanaians, especially if is able to accomplish its goal of creating more bloggers?

I just think more voices needs to be heard. There can be political effects if many Ghanaians realize they are not alone about thinking something. Then there is also the issue of creating local content online, as of now, many things Ghanaian are not reflected online. So many great Ghanaian blogs have not been written…I'd love to read the blog of the water seller, the boarding school student, the university lecturer, the fashionista, the father, the chop bar owner…

Do you consider yourself a writer, blogger or journalist? What are the differences in your opinion? What is your take on the debate about journalism vs blogging?

Oh, what do I consider myself? I feel like a woman who loves writing and currently does so mainly on a blog. On my blog I call myself “lecturer, freelance writer and blogger in Ghana”, this means that apart from blogging regularly, I also do academic writing and sometimes sell my texts, for instance to the newsletter University World News and to Swedish publications.

Is there a debate on journalism vs. blogging? I think too few journalists blog in Ghana, I just know of a handful, and maybe too few bloggers sell texts? Ideally there should be no division. Same thing with academics and bloggers, I think more academics ought to blog!

Does your not being a Ghanaian native influence your tone in political pieces?

My first years of blogging in Ghana, I had expressed [a] positive view of the country, something I have now purposely changed as I cannot feel positively about everything in Ghana. I do not hesitate to write what I think, something I feel many of my Ghanaian blogging colleagues are more cautious of…I think so they will not be put in a box or because they just have more knowledge and are more entangled in all kinds of issues. For instance, it is easy for me to write about how the traditional belief in witchcraft in Ghana hurt women and is a serious human rights issue.

Then at other times, I also feel disconnected, like I do not understand the society fully and that hinders me from maybe criticizing certain political issues. But then again, then I might write that “I don't get this!” like my recent post on one year of paying road tolls, yet the roads are deteriorating…

This week, I'll be writing my 500th post, and I think this interview is a good way of celebrating in advance. Thanks to you and to Global Voices for your interest in us!

February 16 2011

Rwanda: Blogging From Inside Rwanda: A Conversation With Graham Holiday

Written by Etienne Mashuli

Graham Holliday is an award winning blogger, a freelance media trainer and foreign correspondent. He blogs at Noodlepie and Kigali Wire, a news wire, photojournalism site and blog.

Q: Your blog, Kigali Wire is a popular news source on Rwanda; could you tell us how it all began? And something about yourself?

I started putting Kigali Wire together in June, 2009 when I knew I would be moving to Rwanda. The original aim was to aggregate interesting news from Rwanda, blog original content and distribute it using free tools.

The publishing and distribution model is largely based upon the work I did as the Digital Media Editor and Journalism Trainer for the Frontline Club in London.

I wanted to use free tools where possible. The only thing I paid for was the WordPress theme. Initially, I used WPNewspaper. I later moved to Graphpaperpress, as it soon became clear to me that I wanted to focus more on photography.

My hope was, and still is, that Kigali Wire will act as a model for others in how to publish and distribute a news wire online at very low cost.

In addition, I wanted to make how I built the site and the thinking behind it as transparent as possible. As a result, I documented the whole process of building the site on the Kigali Backwire and I occasionally add thoughts and ideas to the Kigali Wire Roughbook.

As for me, I started blogging nearly ten years ago. I lived in Vietnam for ten years and blogged mostly about the street food scene on my noodlepie blog

I've worked in blogs and online journalism ever since. I continue to blog for the Frontline Club, the BBC College of Journalism and Current Intelligence as well as Kigali Wire.

Q: You write that your blog is a “social media experiment”, what is the state of social media in Rwanda?

In Rwanda itself, it's very small-scale. Internet penetration is very low at about 3% of the population.

There are other limiting factors; many parts of Rwanda lack electricity, there are frequent power cuts, plus the Internet is very expensive, slow and unreliable.

The Rwandan government, a few expats and NGOs are probably the most active participants, certainly across blogs, Facebook and Twitter. I know some Rwandans in Rwanda on Twitter, but I could count the number on one hand. Facebook is more popular.

The diaspora and a number of overseas based commentators are far more active. Some of whom blog in Kinyarwanda.

Q: Rwanda has been emphatic on the role that the Internet can play in development, yet the country has on various occasions been criticized for hindering free press. What is the status of censorship in the country?

On paper, there is no censorship in Rwanda. However, it's clear self-censorship is a big problem within Rwandan media. There are virtually no critical voices in the Rwandan media, at least in the English language media.

However, the Kinyarwanda language media is quite a bit freer. Unfortunately, much of it is filled with rumour, gossip, made up quotes with little attention paid to ethics of journalism. Having said that, regardless of the poor quality of the Kinyarwanda language media it's hard to support the horrendous sentence passed down against the two Umurabyo journalists recently.

In addition, the six month ban of Umuseso and Umuvugizi in April last year was out of all proportion. Although, the ban was lifted in Septemeber 2010, the newspapers are yet to return to the streets of Kigali. Another tabloid, Umusingi, is also under threat of late.

Q: How does this affect the blogging community?

As far as I know, the blogging community, such that it is, consists mainly of expats blogging. Most of those appear to be transient, they'll often only be here for a year or so and then they're gone. So, there's little to no effect. Its rare to find bloggers within Rwanda blogging on these issues.

Q: Are there any other challenges that you experience while blogging or that Rwandan bloggers face in general?

Just the power cuts and slow Internet. Sometimes it's so slow, it actually stops altogether for a week or more.

Q: What would you consider to be the success of your blogging experience? For instance, some people have stated that your blog is the closest thing to free media that Rwanda has?

I measure the success of my blog in the number and quality of the connections I make with people inside and outside the country. I have met with some fascinating Rwandans, from bee keepers to orphans, politicians, diplomats and journalists. It also allows me to connect with foreigners interested in Rwanda.

A number of Rwandans have told me they find the wire invaluable. I think this is because I try to aggregate news in an intelligent manner, to weed out what's important on any given day. That could be a news story from the Government mouthpiece newspaper or a critical blog post or article in the mainstream media.

I try to refrain from adding too much of my own opinion. Facts and truth are elusive in Rwanda. An opinion I may hold today could quite easily change tomorrow.

I think an editorial layer is very important. I always check the source of a blog or news story I find interesting. Unfortunately, there are a number of blogs and Twitter accounts, with agendas out there. It doesn't take long to figure which ones they are and I tend to ignore them completely.

Also, there are quite a few very vocal commentators who publish strong opinions about Rwanda, but who seem to spend remarkably little time, or indeed no time at all, in Rwanda itself. I tend not to read or link to them either.

Regardless of your opinion of Rwanda, to form any kind of intelligent perspective you do have to spend a lot of time in the country, talking to Rwandans, finding out how things work, observing life.

Q: Overall, what is the status of the Rwandan blogosphere? Have more Rwandans started blogging?

Like I mentioned earlier, not that I have noticed. You'll find greater numbers of Rwandans congregating around Facebook, various email discussion lists and Igihe - I could be wrong on that, but that seems to be the case.

Q: Now you also use Twitter, how important is this medium to bloggers?

I have been on Twitter since it started in 2006. Twitter has evolved into an entirely new news platform, therefore it's obvious if you're interested in news you have to be on it.

It's a good distribution tool, but I mainly use it for monitoring and engaging with people.

I occasionally pick up stories I would not otherwise know about by running forward searches on keywords.

It has proved very useful as an early warning system during the grenade attacks we have suffered in Kigali over the past year. Not all of the information turns out to be true, but it's a good starting point, so long as you keep a skeptical eye on supposedly authentic information coming out of Twitter. Rumours spread just as fast as facts on Twitter.

On the evening of the last grenade attack at the end of January, 2011 I was having dinner with my family in central Kigali. We were unaware of the attack while we were out. When we got home, I looked at Twitter and saw a number of tweets mentioning a possible attack an hour earlier. However, there were very few details of where or when the attack was and if anyone had been injured.

I made some phone calls to a number of reliable sources and immediately tweeted the most important bits of information and tried to quash rumours. I then spent a bit more time talking to people, monitoring news outlets to put together a quick blog post summarizing what I had found out.

I suspect Twitter might become more and more important as and when the Internet becomes more affordable, reliable and widespread.

Q: Most other forms of media were used during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda to incite ethnic hatred? Do you think that blogging has the capacity to unite the society?

I'm afraid that's too big and idealistic a question for me… :) Come and ask me again when all Rwandans have access to a reliable electricity supply, know how to use computers, have access to computers and the Internet and can afford to use the Internet… Seems like a long way off to me, but here's hoping.

Q: What do you think will be the legacy of your blog?

I hope I will find a Rwandan who can take it over. If I can find the right person, Kigali Wire will be an ongoing news wire and resource that I just happened to start.

February 01 2011

December 01 2010

Venezuela: Comics Find Their Place on the Web 2.0

By Laura Vidal · Translated by Damien Moroney · View original post [es]

The comic in Venezuela is one of the genres that is generally underrated and ironically, treasured within the country's culture. The artists who associate themselves with the expression of the comic and its way of illustrating ideas quickly and amusingly work more on the net than among publishers. In fact, much of the author's struggle from the new fans of the comic in Venezuela is based on claiming a definite and visible place where they express numerous ideas of the world, particularly the urban world.

Groups like Cómics Mitos Urbanos (Urban Myths Comics) [es] and Blogzup [es] have places on the net in order to gather works and release them. Among the different followers, opinions, publications and impressions in this far-reaching world, a standard is common: the genre of the comic in Venezuela searches for and deserves attention, curiosity and appreciation.

Within the funny style and tradition which identifies itself easily with the Venezuelan personality, comic book artists like Jorge Blanco, Pedro Leon Zapata and his disciple Rayma are present, living through works of art which are extremely visible in Caracas and various publications.

The nostalgic collective blog Cuando era chamo (When I was a kid) [es] recalls Jorge Blanco's “El Naufrago” (”The Castaway”):

La Tira Cómica del Náufrago nos contaba en una sola imagen sin palabras la vida del solitario personaje por alargar su estancia en la abandonada isla. Su autor Jorge Blanco, nació en 1945 y ha desarrollado una exitosa carrera como diseñador, humorista, dibujante, ilustrador y escultor, recibiendo importantes reconocimientos en su país y en el exterior. Además de crear al Náufrago es el autor de los dibujos de la imagen corporativa del Museo de los Niños en Caracas.

The Castaway comic strip told us in a single image, without words, about the life of the solitary character through prolonging his stay on the deserted island. It's creator Jorge Blanco, born in 1945, has developed a successful career as a designer, humorist, cartoonist, illustrator ans sculptor, receiving significant recognition in his own country and internationally. As well as creating el Naufrago, he designed the corporate image of the Children's Museum in Caracas.

On Zapata, the blog El Venezolano es… (The Venezuelan is…) [es] says,

Como si no bastara su constante discurso artístico y su manera caprichosa de opinar a través de sus trazos y pinceladas, Pedro León Zapata es el autor de “Conductores de Venezuela”, gigantesco mural de cerámica de más de 1500 metros cuadrados de superficie, que ilumina parte del perímetro norte de la Universidad Central de Venezuela en la ciudad de Caracas.

As if his constant artistic discourse and his whimsical way of giving his opinion through his sketches and brushstrokes is not enough, Pedro Leon Zapata is the creator of “Conductores de Venezuela” (”Drivers of Venezuela”), a gigantic ceramic mural more than 1500 sq metres in size, which decorates part of the north perimeter of the Central University of Venezuela in the city of Caracas.

Mural "Drivers of Venezuela," Image by flickr user ruurmo, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

However, these figures of bitter and humorous criticism find themselves at the start, and the continuation of a line of artists who disappear and appear in the Venezuelan newspapers. Those silent, but present veterans, emphasise the ideas of the people in the strips from Omar Cruz, popular for almost two decades through his comic strip “El Ranchito” (”The Little Hut”). This representation is the artist's most recognised work and it usually found itself in the weekly magazine El Camaleon (The Chameleon), together with other signs of biting criticism to the governments that preceeded Hugo Chavez.

According to the introductory words of the artist in his book:

El ranchito siempre necesita algo; acomodar la tubería, repasar el techo, levantar la pared… es en tiempos de campañas presidenciales que nos viene una esperanza… pero lo único que nos queda es nuestro rancho empapelado con los afiches y las promesas de los candidatos que más nunca volvieron por el cerro. A la voz que habla desde el ranchito la acompaña un personaje llamado mi negra; esa compañera que nos motiva a seguir luchando y que nos alienta diciéndonos: ‘no te preocupes, agún día nos mudaremos’.

El Ranchito always needs something, to fit in the pipes, to check the roof, put up a wall… it is in times of presidential campaigns that a hope comes to us… but the only thing that it leaves us is our hut papered with the posters and the promises of the candidates who never returned to the hill. A character called “Mi Negra” accompanies the voice that speaks from the little hut, that companion who motivates us to carry on fighting and who encourages us, saying to us: “Don't worry, some day we will change”.

Used with artist's permission

A video on Youtube shows Omar Cruz working on his character, on the basic ideals of one of his heroes: ethics, morals, strength, values, one's country, courage, loyalty.

On the opposite side of the story and across the internet, Planeta Venezuela Cómics [es] tries to see the vision “of the right side of the story.” In its provocative presentation, the author says:

Página con contenido altamente Derechista, lo cual puede resultar ofensivo para audiencias de izquierda. Se recomienda DISCRECIÓN AL LEERLA. Esto significa, que si eres de idiotología Izquierdista y no te gusta lo que sale publicado en mi página, puedes ejercer cualquiera de estos 2 derechos: Hacer como el Avestruz, es decir, pasar de mi página y buscarte una con contenido más acorde a tus intereses, y el otro; comentar y quedar como un idiota, lo cual ustedes ejercen BRILLANTEMENTE.

A page with highly right-wing content, which can be offensive to left-wing audiences. It recommends DISCRETION IN READING IT. This means that if you are of left-wing idiotology and you don't like that which is published on my page, you can exercise either of these two rights: To make like an ostrich, that is to say, to pass by my page and to find yourself one with content more appropriate to your interests, and the other, to comment and look like an idiot, which you exercise BRILLIANTLY.

Also under the political tone of the opposition, with touches of humour and about daily life, you can find Garabatos [es] from Henry Casanova, illustrator and graphic designer..

Another wave arrives pushed by new artists and their vision of the urban oral tradition. Comics Mitos Urbanos [es] is the sign of these phenomena through characters of importance, connected by the legendary and mythical fascination of the oral tradition of the region. On the blog that gathers all the work:

…Se plantea el estudio de personajes que se han catalogado como mitos o historias orales de gran potencial tanto imaginativo, como de indagación del contexto, con la finalidad de contribuir con el estudio del imaginario; e historias orales surgidas en Venezuela. Buscamos generar una conexión con la memoria y los personajes potenciales de nuestro propio contexto.

…One considers the study of characters who have been classified as myths or oral stories of great potential so imaginative, as from an investigation of the context, with the purpose of contributing with the study of the imaginary, and oral stories emerged in Venezuela. We are trying to create a connection with memory and potential characters of our own context.

The project considers the development of anti-heroic figures. ‘Machera', for example, is a miraculous soul of local spiritualism (linked to Santeria) and one of the figures who stands our the most on the blog. Also called the Saint Malando (a Venezuelan word for criminal) the cult of Machera is collected in the activities that they carry out around the development of the character in the world of comic strips. Blogzup [es] reviews the publication:

En general es una lectura bastante interesante, se trata de un personaje -mitad realidad y mitad leyenda- del que no sabía mucho y del que sólo había escuchado debido a esta publicación. Machera fue un criminal que tenía por costumbre ayudar a la gente de su barrio, se le recuerda por acciones como robar farmacias para regalar medicinas a los pobres. Tras una muerte violenta a mano de la justicia, su fama no hizo sino crecer hasta convertirse en leyenda, mucha gente pide favores y milagros a su espíritu.

In general it is interesting enough reading, its about a character, half reality and half legend, of which you don't know much and of which you have only heard because of this publication. Machera was a criminal who had a habit of helping people in his village, they remember him through actions such as robbing pharmacies in order to give medicine to the poor. After a violent death at the hands of the law, his fame wasn't over but growing until it turned into legend, many people ask his spirit for favours and miracles.

Another project on the mythological and the fantastical continues on the blog by Mr Rogger, under the name of Venezuela Fantástica [es]:

…Un macroproyecto que comprende las áreas de ilustración, animación gráfica, música e interactividad para la realización de un juego interactivo multimedia basado en los aspectos míticos e históricos del folklore venezolano. La finalidad de dicho juego es incorporar esta temática pedagógicamente al campo del entretenimiento.

A large-scale project which comprises the areas of illustration, graphic animation, music and interactivity for the realisation of a multimedia interactive game based on the historic and mythical aspects of Venezuelan folklore. The purpose of said game is to incorporate this pedagogicaly thematic subject matter in the field of entertainment.

The world of comic strips and pictures seeks to construct symbols for an identity that wants to see itself as its own and diverse. The new comic also combines itself with the new Venezuelan aesthetic wave which shows its racially mixed nature in works that point to recreating local knowledge and wit in different colours and in more dynamic ways. It remains however the great question about the vision of the past, ever changing, and like this the mystery of the human dimension of the heroes of Venezuela and the struggles through which the comic genre overcomes the limitations of the ingratitude of the Venezuelan publishing world.

November 24 2010

Pakistan: Winner Of The Best South Asian Blog Award

By Rezwan

Owais Mughal and Adil Najam informs that popular Pakistani groupblog All Things Pakistan has been named the Best South Asian Blog in the Seventh Annual Brass Crescent Awards 2010.

November 19 2010

Azerbaijan: Emin Milli released, but another activist detained

By Onnik Krikorian

Following yesterday's news that video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizade had been conditionally released in Azerbaijan, Facebook was today awash with news that his friend and fellow activist, Emin Milli, had also been freed. Amnesty International had adopted both as prisoners of conscience.

Both men were detained in July last year after a brawl in a Baku restaurant and sentenced just over four months later to 2 and 2.5 years in prison respectively. International human rights organizations considered the case politically motivated.

As statuses were updated alongside photographs and video of Milli reunited with friends and family were posted on Facebook, the news was also spread on Twitter.

EMIN IS FREE!!!!!! Hearing just took place in prison. #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan #Freedom

Emin Milli is FREE as well! :D #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan

Young bloggers #Eminmilli and #Adnan are released by the court of appeal. #Azerbaijan #EminAdnan

Emin Milli & Adnan Hajizade is Free! Can't expess feelings now. #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan #EminMilli

#EminAdnan released from prison #Azerbaijan #freedom of expression finally! […]

Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade are both released from prison now. Congrats and thanks to all dear friends!

Photo from RFE/RL

Collapsing Directions, a blog written by an international organization worker once based in Azerbaijan, comments on the release of both men, but also sounds a note of caution.

[…] what seemed so distant has suddenly happened: Adnan and then Emin were freed; the prosecutors raised no objections, the court proceedings took place so quickly as to almost be invisible. There is a somewhat intangible and unreal aspect to this liberation. Nevertheless, I still fear that they will once again be the victims of injustice.

I know the time is for rejoicing, but I cannot help but keep in mind that those who differ, oppose or criticize are still pressured or worse; that the very recent parliamentary elections were anything but democratic; that a candidate for those elections has just been detained at the Georgian border; that even though Emin and Adnan are free, others are not and will continue to bear the burden of injustice.

Indeed, before news of Milli's release came, his supporters were already tweeting news of the detention of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a Harvard-educated activist who unsuccessfully ran for parliament in Azerbaijan earlier this month.

Deputatlığa namizəd Bəxtiyar hacıyev Gürcüstanla sərhəd qapısında saxlanılıb

Candidate Bakhtiyar Hajiyev detained at the border gate with Georgia.

Candidate in #Azerbaijan Parliamentary Elections @Hajiyev2010 has been arrested at Georgian border - unclear on reasons, will clarify.

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, youth activist, candidate for parliament, arrested & handcuffed in Aze-Geo border, taken to nearby military base

no reason given for arrest of independant candidate @Hajiyev2010 - authorities say they'll hand him over, but to whom is unclear. #Azeraijan

Could this really be happening again? @Hajiyev2010 's brother arrived where Bakhtiyar is being held but unable to meet with him. #Azerbaijan

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev will soon be taken to Shemkir District Military Prosecutor's Office and will spend the night there. #Azerbaijan

Emin and Adnan are both free now. But there is a new victim, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev @Hajiyev2010

Meanwhile, in a post commenting on the release of Hajizade, Caucasus also reminds readers of the case of imprisoned 2009 International Press Freedom Award recipient Eynulla Fatullayev.

This news is of course cause for celebration, but Hajizade emphasized that he is innocent, and wants eventual exoneration […] and it should be remembered that Azerbaijan’s gutsiest journalist, Eynullah Fatullayev, remains incarcerated on separate charges, including libel, tax evasion, and (ridiculously) instigation of terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred.


[…] Fatullayev has gone on two hunger strikes, and the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Azerbaijan to release him and pay a 25,000 euro fine. Although the government has essentially told the Court to, um, be fruitful and multiply, the Azerbaijan Supreme Court dismissed the original charges against him on 11 November.


Does this mean that a release of Fatullayev is in the offing as well? That’s a tough call, since as I’ve said in the past, Fatullayev is the one journalist in the country who makes everyone uncomfortable. […]

A summarized chronology of events surrounding the imprisonment of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli as well as the campaign for their release can be found in Global Voices' Caucasus 2009 Blog Review.

November 18 2010

Azerbaijan: Video blogger Adnan Hajizade released

By Onnik Krikorian

In a surprise decision, an Appeal Court in Baku, Azerbaijan, today ordered the conditional release of video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizade. Initially detained in July 2009 along with fellow activist Emin Milli, the two men were sentenced over four months later to two years in jail in what many believe was a politically motivated trial. Even significant outcry from the international community left many supporters resigned to their fate.

Hajizade's detention and imprisonment came soon after restrictions were introduced on foreign broadcasters operating in the oil-rich former Soviet republic, and as youth activists, many from the OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement he co-founded, became more active. Along with fellow activist Emin Milli, he was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International a day after both men were sentenced.

Naturally, when news of his release surfaced earlier today, many supporters of Hajizade, a co-founder of the Azerbaijani OL! Youth Movement, were relieved. Photographs and news reports were shared on Facebook while comments and links were also spread on Twitter .

Adnan is FREE!!! :D #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan

Adnan's early release granted!!! #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan

[…] Committee for support of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli is more than happy to announce the release of Adnan Hajizade!!!

Yesss… Adnan Hacizade azadliqdadir!!! Bu gunun sevinci dehsetdir :)))))

Yess.. Adnan is free. Today's joy is awesome.

One even made Twitter's Top Tweets when @leylanajafli uploaded and linked to a photograph taken by the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety of Hajizade newly arrived at home. Her comment used as its caption was very poignant indeed.

The Face of Freedom! Adnan Hajizade is released from prison :) #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan

Yet, despite the circumstances surrounding Hajizade's arrest, as well as conditional nature of his release, when asked if he will continue to blog, Hajizade's answer was simple. “Yes, yes,” he said as he left the courtroom. “Video blogging.

Judging from other interviews he gave, as well as commentary from supporters on Facebook and Twitter, attention will now turn to Milli who remains in prison along with journalists such as 2009 International Press Freedom Award recipient Eynulla Fatullayev.

A summarized chronology of events surrounding the imprisonment of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli as well as the off and online campaign for their release can be found in Global Voices' Caucasus: 2009 Blog Review.

October 04 2010

Egypt: Kareem Amer's Sentence Ends on November 5

By Amira Al Hussaini

November 5 marks the end of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer's or Kareem Nabil Sulaiman four year prison term. “We have reasons to believe that Kareem may not be released on this date. We also fear that he might be tortured nearing the date of his release,” says the Free Kareem blog. Kareem has been sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on his blog.

Bahrain: Free Blogger Ali Abdulemam

By Amira Al Hussaini

Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam was arrested almost a month ago. He has been held in solitary detention since then. His legal status remains unclear as no lawyer has seen him, and the authorities do not provide any details on the exact charges that him, according to the Free Blogger Ali Abdulemam blog.

September 29 2010

South Africa: Winners of South Africa Blog Awards 2010

By Ndesanjo Macha

The South African Blog Awards started in 2005 to showcase the best blogs in South Africa voted for by the public. Nominations for 2010 South African Blog Awards took place between 2–27 August 2010. The top ten nominees in each category entered into the public vote phase. The results were then passed onto judges who decided the category winner. The overall winner was chosen by the judges from the selection of category winners.

The winners were announced on 25 September 2010 at the annual awards ceremony at the One & Only hotel, Cape Town. The award for the Best 2010 South Africa Blog went to Watkykjy. The blog is in Afrikaans.

Below are the winners for 2010 SA Blog Awards in 25 categories:

Ogilvy Twitter Micro Blogger of the Year: Mandy Watson
The Ogily Best Media and Marketing Blog: CherryFlava
The Kulula Best Travel Blog: Gateway South Africa
The Old Mutual Best Green Blog: Sprig
The Evox Advanced Nutrition Best Sports Blog: Paddle Sweep
The UCT Graduate School of Business Best Blog: Memeburn
The Havana Club Rum Best Blog Design: Indie Berries
The Jameson Whisky Best Fashion Blog: Kim Gray
The Olmeca Edicion Black Best Music Blog: Don't Party
The Best Parenting Blog: Reluctant Mom
The Best Personal Blog: Indie Berries
The Best Company Blog: RLabs
The Most Controversial Blog: 2OceanVibe
The Best Indigenous Language Blog: Watkykjy
The Best Group Blog: RLabs
The Best South African Podcast/Video Blog: ZA News
The Best Science and Technology Blog: She's the Geek
The Best Food and Wine Blog: Simply Delicious
The RE/MAX Best New Blog: Simply Delicious
The Best Photographic Blog:
The Best Blog about Politics: Wonkie
The Best Overseas South African Blog: Pharside
The Exclus1ves Best Entertainment Blog: 2OceanVibe
Best Post on a SA Blog: Marketing District 9: The Web - A Film Feature
Best TV/Radio Blog: The Big Breakfast Blog: East Coast Radio

September 28 2010

September 22 2010

Azerbaijan: Bloqosfer 2010

By Aygun Janmammadova

Finally it happened. Bloqosfer 2010, an event bloggers in Azerbaijan had been looking forward  to for about two months, was held on 10-12 September in the resort town of Nabran. Over 100 established bloggers took their place beside emerging ones, new media specialists and Internet experts, business stakeholders, and representatives from civil society as well as the authorities.

The event was sponsored by international donors such as the Soros Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, and Counterpart International among others. Following the Barcamp format it aimed to discuss the current state of the blogosphere in Azerbaijan as well as formulate new strategies on making it more productive and widely known.

Preparations for Bloqosfer 2010 started months before, with social networking sites such as Facebook especially publicizing the event. Promotional videos for the event were also filmed in advance and were shared by many Facebook users.

But, as this was Bloqosfer 2010, many bloggers also reflected on the event, especially after it was over. blog [AZ], for example, says that the event went well overall and was a turning point in the Azerbaijani blogosphere even though some presentations were not perfect.

Forumu baş tutmuş hesab etmək olar, çünki, çox maraqlı və yeni bir hadisə idi. Hətta, özünün qüsurları ilə də. Şəxsən, mənim foruma uyğun görmədiyim qeyri-peşəkar və müştəbeh insanlar yer alsalar da, ümumi götürəndə, forumun əhəmiyyəti böyükdür. Və yeni medianın inkişafı istiqamətində aparılan texnoloji mahiyyətli müzakirələrdən də görüldü ki, İlqar Mirzənin rəhbərlik etdiyi , özlüyündə mühüm perspektivlər daşıyır.

One can conclude that forum took place and that it was an interesting and new event despite its weak points. Personally I think there were also some irrelevant and arrogant people participating, but in general the forum was of a significant importance. It was obvious from technology-related discussions in the sphere of new media development that “Bloqosfer-2010,” led by Ilgar Mirza, will have a significant impact on the future.

Nevertheless, some bloggers participating at the event were unhappy that the issue of the two imprisoned prominent video blogging youth activists, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, detained and eventually imprisoned last year on charges of hooliganism, was not raised during the event. Action Meinhof [AZ] touched upon this issue by arguing that blogs are not necessarily written only about political matters, but can also be for commercial purposes.

Və sonda bir məsələyə aydınlıq gətirmək istərdim ki, bloq yalnız siyasi mövzularda yazılmır. Əgər bununla razılaşmayan varsa, bir zəhmət çəksin, “google”a müraciət etsin, bloqların növləri və onların tematikaları barəsində məlumat əldə etsin, bundan sonra fikir mübadiləsi aparsın. Evdar qadının belə bloqu ola bilər, orada yemek resseptləri yazaraq geniş bir auditoriya əldə edə bilər.


[…] İndi bəzi şəxslər dirəniblər ki, nə üçün Emin Milli və Adnan Hacızadənin adı orada heç çəkilməyib və ya buna imkan yaradılmayıb. Nəzərinizə çatdıraq ki, bu mövzu artıq uzun zamandır müzakirə olunur və əminliklə deyə bilərəm ki, Bloqosfer 2010 layihəsindən qat-qat güclü tərəflər – qurumlar və təşkilatlar bu məsələnin önə çıxmasına çalışırlar və hələ də davam edirlər. Bəs nəticə? Yoxdur nəticə! Olmamasına səbəb isə məhz köhnə stereotiplərə ilişib qalan bir insanlığa məxsus xalqımız olmasıdır. Orada müzakirə olunmalı olan “necə edək ki, gələcəkdə digər bloqerlərimiz də azad sözə görə həbsxanaya düşməsinlər” olmalı idi, daha “Emin və Adnan niyə həbsdədirlər” yox.

Also, I would like to clarify that blogs do not necessarily touch upon only political issues. If anyone disagrees with this statement let them “google” it to get information about the types and themes of blogs, and only after then can they brainstorm and argue. A housewife can also have a blog, sharing food recipes and attracting a cult following.


[…] And now, some people fret about why Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were not mentioned during the discussions or why there were no opportunities for it. Let me tell you that this issue has been long discussed and I can confidently say that parties, far more powerful than Bloqosfer 2010 - institutions and organizations, try to bring up this issue and still continue to do so. And what is the result? No result! The reason for this is that there is our people still stick to old stereotypes. The issue that should have been discussed there should have been what can we do so that other bloggers do not get arrested for freedom of speech rather than why are Emin and Adnan still in jail.

In its post, “What did Bloqosfer 2010 give to Azerbaijan,” Жизнь как Метро [AZ] came up with some suggestions, concluding that the event was very innovative, achieved its goals, and perhaps even more than that by representing a new beginning.

İkincisi, Bloqosfer 2010 dağınıq halda olan Azərbaycan bloqçuluğunu birləşdirə bildi. […]

Üçüncüsü, Bloqosfer kifayət qədər özünə qapanmış formada fəaliyyət göstərən və barmaqla sayılacaq qədər olan region bloqçularına mərkəzə doğru açılmaq imkanı verdi.

Dördüncüsü, Bloqosfer – 2010 Azərbaycanda bloqqerlik fobiyasını az da olsa qırmış oldu. […]

Beşincisi, Bloqosfer bloqqerliyi siyasilikdən çıxarıb sosiallaşdırdı.

Second, Bloqosfer 2010 could unite a blogosphere that was in a scattered state in Azerbaijan. […]

Third, Bloqosfer gave an opportunity for regional bloggers functioning underground and in scarce numbers to come into the spotlight.

Fourth, Bloqosfer 2010 could break the blogging phobia in Azerbaijan, even if only insignificantly. […]

Fifth, Bloqosfer took blogging out of politics and made it a social thing.

Presentations made at Bloqosfer 2010 will be uploaded to slideshare and its official website. Videos filmed during the event will also be available on Youtube. Twitter updates about the event can be found at #bloqosfer10.

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