Blog are a great media for any individual, whether they are a professional journalist or not, to express their views, review restaurants or products and even write news stories. Journalists are using blogs as a way of providing more personal insights on news stories and most major news networks have their own blogs.
There are also millions of bloggers who consider themselves to be ‘citizen journalists’ who use sites such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com and Tumblr.com to express their views and connect to their community. “Blogs can provide a source of independent and alternative news from traditional mainstream media” (Deibert & Rohozinski, 2007, p. 20), which is refreshing in democratic countries, and even more important in countries where the government controls the media. This explains why in many communist countries, activists are easily attracted to blogging as a way of promoting their cause.
The ease of blogging provides a fantastic tool for individuals worldwide to have their say, but unfortunately this can lead to negative consequences when blogging threatens the state’s control of media (Deibert & Rohozinski, 2007). The silencing of bloggers mainly occurs in non-democratic regimes, which poses more problems as the “accused bloggers are often burdened by limited or no access to legitimate justice systems” (Deibert & Rohozinski, 2007, p. 22).
As the Internet becomes more accessible in countries worldwide, so does blogging, and this has resulted in an increase in the number of blogger arrests. “The most common declared cause of blogger arrests is ‘anti-state activity’” (Deibert & Rohozinski, 2007, p.23). These bloggers usually question their state’s leadership or encourage anti-government movements including protests. The graph below shows the locations that the arrests have been taking place up until 2007, highlighting that Iran, Bahrain and China are the three highest arresters of bloggers. All of these countries are military dictatorships or communist regimes.
The BBC believes that the rising rate of blogger arrests is “testament to the growing political importance of blogging” (BBC News, 2008). This has been evident more than ever in the 2011 protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Reporters Without Borders, an organization that encourages press freedom, has reported on “the arrests and disappearances … of bloggers and online activists across a number of Tunisian cities” (Reporters without Borders, 2011). Tunisia is a good example of where there has been very little traditional media allowed in the country due to a crack down by authorities, and social media including blogs have provided the majority of news, pictures and videos to an international audience.
The exact number of blogger arrests is unknown, because a lot of the information does not make it to the main media. Some interesting examples of bloggers arrests:
Palestine: A Palestinian blogger named Waleed Khalid Hassayin was arrested in 2010 for a blog he wrote called ‘The Enlightened Mind’ which provided arguments against religions (Gharbia, 2010).
Saudi Arabia: “A Saudi blogger, Fuad Al-Farhan, noted for his promotion of moderate reform in Saudi Arabia has been arrested” (Crossroads Arabia, 2007) for what the Saudi government justified as ‘funding terrorism’.
Bahrain: A Bahranian blogger, Ali Abdulemam, was arrested in 2010 for discussing democracy on this blog, and is still in jail today (Hopkins, 2010).
Burma: Nay Phone Latt, a blogger in Burma “informed the outside world about the military junta’s brutal crackdown during pro-democracy protests in September 2007” (Morillon, 2008). Latt was sentenced to 20 years non-parole jail time. Furthermore, Latt’s lawyer was then jailed for criticizing the sentence given.
This is a just a small snapshot of the large number of bloggers that have been arrested in previous years, and unfortunately this number is just going to continue to rise as blogging becomes more widespread. These situations really highlight the power of words and the impact that a blog can make, especially in repressive regimes. If countries including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia come out of the current protests as fairer, stronger and more progressive countries, then a large amount of the credit can be attributed to the role of social media, in particular blogging, for encouraging the population to demand change.
BBC News. (2008, June 16). Blogger arrests hit record high. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from BBC World News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7456357.stm
Crossroads Arabia. (2007, December 23). Saudi Blogger Arrested. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from Crossroads Arabia: http://xrdarabia.org/2007/12/23/saudi-blogger-arrested/
Deibert, R., & Rohozinski, R. (2007). Good for Liberty, Bad for Security? Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Gharbia, S. B. (2010, November 13). Palestinian blogger arrested. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from GlobalVoices : http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2010/11/13/palestinian-blogger-arrested-for-criticism-of-islam-on-facebook/
Hopkins, C. (2010, September 7). Bahranian Blogger Arrested, Probably Tortured. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from Read Write Web: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/bahraini_blogger_arrested_probably_tortured.php
Morillon, L. (2008, November 14). Burmese Blogger Sentenced to 20 Years for Reporting on Protests. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from Media Shift: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2008/11/burmese-blogger-sentenced-to-20-years-for-reporting-on-protests319.html
Reporters without Borders. (2011, January 7). Wave of arrests of bloggers and activitsts. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from Reporters Without Borders: http://en.rsf.org/tunisia-wave-of-arrests-of-bloggers-and-07-01-2011,39238.html
Simon, M. (2008, April 25). Student Twitters his way out of Egyptian jail. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/25/twitter.buck/index.html