Free Speech is the basis on which citizen journalism is built on. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom to propagate the same are inherent human rights.
When citizens decide to be part of the news and information dissemination process, they do so because of flaws or inadequacies in traditional media, whether this be due to government restrictions, self censorship, bias or plain mediocrity. Citizen’s involvement in the process should not be viewed as a competition but rather as a call to rethink the broadcast process as a whole. The fact that people can decide to immerse themselves into hitherto unknown broadcast process is but an indicator of failings of the media as we know it.
Going to through the web I have become increasingly worried at the lengths governments and authorities will go to stifle free speech, in China and Egypt they are putting them in jail and worse in Iran the government is about to pass a law that will now seek to execute bloggers and journalists in part ‘…..to mental security’. These governments have in fact shown a high disregard for the dissenting voices, and have tried by all means to get through/around the anonymity offered by the web. This is by asking ISP providers to provide users records and blocking access to ‘un-worthy sites’ the US, the bastion of freedom isn’t wholly clean also with a judge ordering Youtube, the video sharing site, to release its user records.
But we have to ask ourselves is this really necessary, is citizen journalism really a concept worth embracing or is it just a passing fad for hyper-active internet users.
The fundamentals of this phenomenon is that traditional media has failed as such are we doomed to have to endured sub standard fare purporting to be reporting, I think not! When we get alternative reportage, alternative ideas using alternative modes of communications, where new media technology and applications come in, we should be grateful of this. This doesn’t mean that we should embrace it blindly but careful analysis would determine its veracity, just we do with newspapers.
Various efforts on the web to expose this fact have been gaining attention, including the committee to protect bloggers, citizen media law project, global voices among others. These projects should be encouraged and support lest we lose our voices to governmental gags.