Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blogging Under Martial Law

BusinessWeek reported yesterday on the Internet's role in informing the public of the state of Pakistan after General Musharraf enforced Martial Law on November 5th and in mobilizing citizens in opposition:
A complete blackout of cable television—the most pervasive medium in Pakistan—radio, and the Urdu press had blocked images from public view, but word spread. The students decided to participate in the protests.

That's when the blogging began. On Nov. 5, the Emergency Times (and an attendant wiki, http://pakistan.wikia.com/wiki/Emergency_2007) appeared. It declared itself "an independent Pakistani student initiative against injustice and oppression," which gave readers a regular update and comments on the emergency, and student activities against it across Pakistan. It announced that there would be a protest by LUMS students on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m., as also at FAST-NU, a technical university in Lahore.

Other protests were organized using Facebook, not just in Pakistan but around the globe, which you can track on Teeth Maestro, a blog that shifted to “crisis mode” after Martial Law was instated. The website also publishes updates on in-country demonstrations and tips for protesters, submitted by readers via Blackberry and email.

With thousands of lawyers and human rights activists in jail and media outlets being pressured to abide by a new "code of ethics," the current situation is a perfect example of how the lines between citizen and professional journalism are becoming blurred. The New York Times recently appealed to Pakistani citizens to submit eyewitness accounts of blocked protests via text, video, or photographs.

Last week Dr. Awab Alvi, who formerly ran Teeth Maestro, warned fellow bloggers of the dangers they may face in light of this power:

I THINK ITS TIME THAT ALL PAKISTAN BASED BLOGGERS SHOULD STOP BLOGGING AND BE CAREFUL SINCE ITS BEING CONFIRMED THAT MARITAL LAW IS IN EFFECT WE ALL HAVE TO PLAY IT SAFE - HAND OVER REIGNS TO INTERNATIONAL REPORTERS AND BLOGGERS TO HELP REPORT - WE CANNOT RISK IT HERE

Other bloggers have decided to remain anonymous, fearing their opposition movement may be hampered by leakages of information in the press.

With any media coverage of conflict or civil unrest come ethical questions: Should reporters risk their lives to get accurate information to the public? Under what circumstances can unnamed sources be used and trusted?

The situation in Pakistan suggests that bloggers too now have to ask these same questions of themselves.

6 comments:

Michael said...

Mr. Bush I believe would love to have the power to stop the blogispher in the united States. Peace and Liberty through intelligence, strength, and integrity.

the accuser said...

I am also recording Anti-Emergency News from Pakistan and elsewhere on my blog. The blog is called The Critique Aggregator and it is available at http://paki-blogger.blogspot.com

I hope you like it.

George M Weinert V said...

And as soon as Clinton and the Defeatorcrats have their way we'll be next! the Fascists are here and ready to take over. CLEAN AND LOAD YOUR GUNS BOYS!!!

sunnyday said...

i think martial law is a complete farse as it undermines human freedon ald liberty .it is nothing short of dictatorship power mad rulers of the past should be deleted from existance .sunny
day

sunnyday said...

i think martial law is a complete farse as it undermines human freedon ald liberty .it is nothing short of dictatorship power mad rulers of the past should be deleted from existance .sunny
day

Darius Clark said...

This post is very interesting. I have been following the Pakistani drama for several weeks now and I find it inspiring that its citizens are willing to stand up for their rights and freedoms.

However, I also understand people's fear of speaking up in the blogosphere. There is a real danger present that many of us cannot truely perceive. I believe that it is still important to speak up, even if it has to be anonymous because for the first time in our history, we can a much more accurate picture of glabal events, at the individual level, without the political filter from governments and large corporations.

Long live the blogosphere!