Friday, 27 June 2008

Politics on the web. Blog standard (The Economist)

Authoritarian governments can lock up bloggers. It is harder to outwit them:

[...] It was the same story in Armenia in March, where the president, Robert Kocharian, ended his term in office with a media blackout that, supposedly, extended to blogs (self-published websites which typically contain the author’s personal observations and opinions). Like all other outlets, the authorities said, blogs could publish government news only. The result was a soaring number of blogs hosted on servers outside Armenia—all sharply critical of the authorities. [...]


Ani said...

Artmika, in case you didn't see this, it just happened on Tuesday. I guess this is what it takes to lose voting privileges in the EU:

Belarus tightening controls on Internet journalism

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Belarusian lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a crackdown on Internet journalism, one of the last remaining independent sources of information in the repressive former Soviet republic.

The legislation also forbids all Belarusian media outlets from accepting foreign funding, a restriction that will affect about 30 publications that now receive U.S. or EU money.

The bill, drafted by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko's office, "is among the harshest in Europe and throws Belarus back to the worst Soviet times," said Oleg Gulak, the leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee rights group.

The new restrictions come ahead of parliamentary elections, which Lukashenko on Tuesday set for Sept. 28.

His government argues that the Internet needs to be brought to heel to shield the population from foreign propaganda.

"We have to protect society from the negative effects of the Internet," First Deputy Information Minister Liliya Ananich told parliament members Tuesday.

The new measures require all Internet sites to be officially registered with the government; many independent newspapers that have been closed down by the authorities have taken refuge in cyberspace.

The legislation also toughens controls on journalists, who can be imprisoned for two years for reproducing foreign media reports that "discredit Belarus."

me said...

"I guess this is what it takes to lose voting privileges in the EU"

Must be that, because shooting at unarmed civilians doesn't do the trick anymore.

Wallace said...

It was the media blackout in Armenia that caught my attention, and led me to blogs like this.

Haik said...

They lost the fight against the blog and Internet. As a result they started creating their own blogs :)
There was even a blog dedicated to Serj Sargssian which actually turned into a restricted blog where only invited people /friends/ could comment. :)
Serj blog blocked itself :)

nazarian said...

What else did you expect? Serj's blog quickly became a laughing stock. If you are an unpopular figure, you can't allow people freely say what they think. That's why they blocked his blog (I'm not even sure that he knew what a blog was, anyway).

Ani said...

It's lonely at the top:

Friends: 1: serzhsargsyan
3: lj_maintenance, lj_spotlight, news

Mutual Friends: 1: serzhsargsyan (yep, just one!)

Who knew you could be your own "mutual friend?"

Onnik Krikorian said...

Wow, wonderful to see The Economist publish this piece and also mention Global Voices Online.

I also suspect that the mention of Armenia was because of my coverage of blogs during the election and state of emergency as well as my presentation in Budapest.

I feel quite proud to be working for Global Voices Online. :-)

Onnik Krikorian said...


The reference to Armenia is not particularly accurate.

Firstly, it was a media lawyer that argued blogs fall under state of emergency restrictions.

There was no government attempt to control or restrict blogs.

Secondly, not all blogs were critical of the authorities. However, I do agree that Ter-Petrossian won the information war.

However, as I pointed out in Budapest at the Global Voices Summit, there was a lot of misinformation coming out.

Credit where credit is due, however. Unzipped was not one of them.

artmika said...

Welcome back, Onnik. I watched your session online. I can’t believe you ditched your power point presentation :) but it went pretty well without it too.

Yes, it is obvious that this article in The Economist was influenced by GV summit and (re Armenia) by your posts in Global Voices. Agree, in particulars, the reference to Armenia is not entirely correct. Except for blocking access to blogs directly connected to Ter-Petrosyan campaign site, all other blogs were normally accessible and served as the main source of information during media blackout. With all due respect to his persona and legal expertise, I still think it was unfortunate that David Sand voiced that argument and many bloggers based in Armenia stopped blogging for a while. I personally think that it is wrong to put blogging under media regulations. These are separate categories and blogs should not be regulated by state legislation, but rather by blogger's own ethical norms. Otherwise, the whole idea of blogging would be lost. I however guess that with increase in popularity and influence, the attempts to ‘state regulate’ blogging would continue, as we witnessed in some other countries too.

Anyway, few days ago a reader of this blog sent me a copy of the report by European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre which in its analysis of the media situation in Armenia during the state of emergency cited Unzipped and Ditord’s blogs. Add also emergence of new blogs nowadays. So, the situation is pretty evolving in Armenian blogosphere, and lets hope that personality and quality will prevail.