Monday, 7 September 2009


BBC World Service: Citizen journalism - democracy or chaos?

  • Monday, 7 September 2009
  • Fouad GM
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  • In this two-part series Michael Buerk analyses the potential and dangers of citizen journalism. In the first part of the series, Buerk talks to bloggers and critics from Sri Lanka, Iran, Burma, and Iraq. In the second part, Buerk will talk to bloggers and citizen journalists from Egypt including my friend Wael Abbas, a prominent Cairene blogger who is often harassed by the authorities and has recently been stopped and harassed at Cairo International Airport more than once. The last time I met Abbas, he told me of how how he was harassed last time he arrived back in Cairo after a workshop in Beirut and had his laptop confiscated from him.


    Citizen journalism is a fast-growing worldwide phenomenon.

    ‘We are all journalists now,’ boast the twitters and bloggers who – thanks to the internet – can talk to the world as reporter, broadcaster, publisher, and editor.

    In two programmes for the BBC World Service, Michael Buerk goes to the heart of the phenomenon, discovering the best and the worst, analysing the potential and the dangers, and focusing on issues of truth and trust.

    ‘Authenticity’ is what citizen journalists believe they are about, seeing themselves as Davids fighting against Goliaths. But critics point to problems of fakery, manipulation, partisanship, bias, and lack of accountability. Why it should be assumed that ‘the little man’ is necessarily morally superior to ‘the big organisation’?

    Yet in countries where freedom of expression is repressed, it is bloggers who are challenging authoritarian regimes in ways traditional journalists cannot. Citizen journalists are enabling the rest of us to read stories and to see pictures that repressive regimes would rather stayed secret.

    The critics remain vocal. What has really been achieved? Small victories, perhaps, but no Watergates as yet. And will this phenomenon extend democracy or end in chaos?

    Part one - Citizen Journalism [click here]

    In the first episode Michael Buerk talks to bloggers and critics from Sri Lanka, Iran, Burma, and Iraq.

    ‘What is going on,’ he reports, ‘is a struggle between old power and new technology for the control of cyberspace itself.’

    First broadcast on Wednesday 02 September 2009.

    Part two - Egyptian bloggers [click here]

    In the second episode Michael Buerk visits Cairo and explores how bloggers - arguably among the most hounded anywhere in the world - are talking on the Egyptian governmnent.

    First broadcast on Wednesday 02 September 2009.

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