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3rd Arab Bloggers Summit 2011 - Tunisia

Jamillah Knowles | 10:32 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Hello Outriders,

Something special for your ears on the podcast this week. I have been out to the Tunisian capital to find out more about the Arabic Bloggers' Meeting there. The meeting included talks and presentations that were held at La Cite des Sciences Tunis.

Tunisa was one of the first countries of the so-called Arab Spring movement that has seen change for people who protested in the streets and campaigned online. Blogging and online interaction might not tell the whole story but it has been a large part of the events that are still taking place.

In Tunisia last week people from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Palestine, the USA and so many other countries gathered to share their experiences and hopes and to talk about their online activities; identifying what did and did not work for them. The meeting was organised by Global Voices, Nawaat and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Sami Ben Gharbia of Nawaat.


The role of the citizen journalist has, of course, been very important in the processes of change. In some countries foreign journalists were barred at particular times and so it has been important for people inside those countries to explain what has been happening. I spoke to Lilian Wagdy, a blogger from Egypt, about the hard work involved but how the results make that work worthwhile.

Some who were in attendance at the conference were not from the countries associated with the Arab Spring, but they came to find out more about methods and practices online. Hayder Hamzoz is an Iraqi blogger who wanted to learn more for his own blog. (arabic link)

Freedom of expression and information was a strong theme at the summit and they are topics that affect many people online around the world. Jillian C York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF, is on the board and writes for Global Voices too - I asked her why it was important for the EFF to be at the meeting.

Sadly not everyone who wanted to be at the Arabic Bloggers' meeting was able to make it. Some Palestinian bloggers were unable to get a visa, but one blogger, Saed, managed to attend, so I asked him what the Palestinian life online is like. (arabic link)

Georgia Poppelwell, Managing Director of Global Voices

The topic of the Arab Uprisings were, of course, a large part of the talks at the summit. But there were also more conversations about how to push things forward and negotiate a future for countries in post-revolutionary times. Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard. We talked about putting a revolution into a wider context, especially when so many of us follow events in a live stream of minute to minute updates.

Of utmost importance to people at the meeting and beyond, is staying safe online. Being outspoken on the web in many countries is still a dangerous activity that can lead to censorship or even violence.

There are practises that bloggers and online content creators can use to disguise their identity but there is also software that can be helpful.

Roger Dingledine works on a tool called Tor - he was helping people at the event to use this software and explain what the capabilities and limitations are. I asked him where Tor came from.

Thanks to everyone who took time out to talk to me at the meeting. If you are up to something online, then let me know. You can email me at outriders at bbc.co.uk, tweet in our direction or add the Facebook page to your feed.

Until next week!
~ Jamillah

Disclosure: Jamillah is also the podcast editor for Global Voices.

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