Blogging to (partial) freedom

Ethan Zuckerman discusses the tranformative power of the internet in Kenya:

There’s a strong overlap between the emerging middle class in the developing world and the world of citizen media. Bloggers in Africa are highly educated, and generally are wealthier than the average African. (It’s not cheap, in African terms, to afford the amount of internet access you need to maintain a blog.) Kenya’s got a large middle class, and it’s got one of the largest blogger populations on the continent, behind South Africa, Egypt and very few others.

This group of bloggers and their peers are documenting the election crisis in a way that’s unprecedented in Africa. Traditionally, we’ve heard about African crises either long after they took place (Rwanda) or through the eyes of international media (Darfur, northern Uganda, eastern DRC). In Kenya, we’re hearing raw, emotional accounts from people directly affected by this violence. These accounts are complicating mainstream media narratives. Immediately after the election, many newspapers offered a narrative of the Kenyan violence in terms of “long-simmering ethnic tensions” – bloggers reminded us that these tensions had been consciously stoked by political parties, and that the nation had been largely free of serious ethnic tension for most of its history. As the violence has taken on a clear ethnic cast, bloggers have reminded us how unexpected and how shocking the violence is against the backdrop of Kenyan history.

In China, meanwhile, web censorship continues to play an insidious role, but thankfully the system isn’t as clever as claimed. Will the regime allow unfettered access during the Beijing Olympics?

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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