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So, You Want To Be A Cyber-Dissident?

Global Voices Online yesterday flagged today's release of Reporters Without Borders' "Handbook For Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents." While the term "cyber dissidents" might suggest to the cursory reader that it has something to do with yet another chapter of "The Matrix," or perhaps a sequel to everyone's favorite Sandra Bullock blockbuster, "The Net," a closer perusal of the handbook revealed quite a bit of interesting content.

In addition to some useful treatises on Blogging 101, (We The Media author Dan Gillmor on the ethics of blogging, Online Journalism Review's Mark Glaser on "What Really Makes A Blog Shine") the guide is really focused on instructing those who are blogging for reasons more pressing than, for example, the latest in stamp collecting – such as being a journalist in a country without a free press. From Global Voices' Rebecca MacKinnon:

"The Handbook for Bloggers is for people who want to be serious participants in the emergent online global conversation: How to set up a quality, credible blog. How to get it noticed. And … if you're in a country where there government might not like what you're saying, how to avoid getting in trouble when you bypass the information gatekeepers and talk directly to the world."

As Global Voices points out, the handbook's highlight is the "Personal Accounts" section, where bloggers from several countries (some operating where a free press does not exist) share their experiences on the impact of blogging. One example, from the (anonymous) author of a blog about current events in Bahrain:
"Currently, Bahrain's only TV and radio stations are run directly by the government, so there is no reporting or discussion of issues that are even distantly related to the local political situation. All of the local newspapers are privately-owned, so they enjoy relatively more freedom than the broadcast media. Yet even in the written press, the situation is not much better because editors do not dare to openly criticize certain influential individuals, such as members of the government, or the royal family (particularly the king and his uncle, the prime minister.)

The Internet, however, provides a means for individuals to freely express their opinions in public, without facing the scrutiny of the government. Although the Bahraini government does have a history of monitoring and blocking political Web sites, it seems to have become more relaxed in the past one or two years, though the situation has deteriorated recently. Moreover, the ease with which someone can set up a Web site and write anonymously (like myself) makes it difficult for the government to take any action against the writers."

It's definitely worth a look …
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