Sunday, May 16, 2010

North African bloggers get creative to evade censorship

North Africa isn't the only place where free speech is under fire. San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes was asked by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm to arrest me for mentioning the name of their law firm on this blog. She refused. Why? She has been very partial to Ray Artiano in this case, brazenly violating the constitution by creating a permanent order that I may not mention the name of the law firm. (I'm violating that order right now.) But she's not a dummy. It appears she was hoping that I'd be so frightened of the possibility of being arrested for contempt of court that I would voluntarily give up my constitutional rights and erase my website. But since that didn't work, she didn't want to keep pushing her luck. The mainstream media might pick up the story if I were jailed. In this country, the media hasn't been silenced, but it does censor itself to some degree, which is why we need bloggers in America.

North African bloggers get creative to evade censorship
May 16,2010
by By Sarra Grira

When confronted with free speech as an act of self-expression, authoritarian powers throughout history have tried to assert their legitimacy and remove threats to their rule through censorship. To achieve this, the censor has had to be quicker than the pen.

This task was relatively easy in the days of the printed word. However, today’s Internet revolution – especially blogs and other online social media – has turned the job of censorship into a censor’s nightmare.

Gone are the days when newspaper dailies were seized before they hit the stalls and books were branded with the seal of interdiction in the printing shop. Due to email and blogs, words today are less expensive and, more importantly, circulate more easily and quickly to readers around the globe.

The blog is arguably a privileged means of expression: simple, accessible and personal, it serves as a notepad on which anyone can jot down their ideas for everyone to see. Bloggers’ concerns range from the color of their summer holiday bikinis to local social issues and the fate of the latest political opponent arrested in one’s country. It is here where censorship meets its match.

For example, in Tunisia in November 2009 the arrest of Fatma Al Rihani, who has a blog “Arabica”, stunned the blogosphere and unleashed a wave of solidarity amongst Tunisian Internet users. And in January in Morocco, following a series of arrests of bloggers that had been writing about student demonstrations, Moroccan bloggers expressed their disapproval with a ”week of mourning” for the loss of freedom of speech in Morocco.

But censoring blogs does not always suppress information. Censorship may work in the short term, but the result is the opposite in the long term – thanks in large part to the “magic” of the Internet. Despite the difficulties censorship creates, some blogs soar to untold heights of popularity and countless hits once they return online after having been censored...

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