TCS Daily


Blogging for Revolution

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - May 6, 2003 12:00 AM

In working to reform and change their oppressive and totalitarian political environment, the Iranian people have come to rely on certain instruments of the media to assist them. Those who can afford to, subscribe to the satellite television service that is provided by National Iranian Television (NITV)-which is located in Los Angeles, and which is headed by Iranian expatriates who work to broadcast a decidedly reformist political message to the Iranian people. Iranians also relied on the Persian language programs of the Voice of America, and its successor program-Radio Farda-to give them access to a political viewpoint that they do not get from their own national media.

Unfortunately, National Iranian Television needs more funding to be successful and Radio Farda is not as good as it should be at catering to the needs of reformist Iranians for instant news updates about the state of the reform movement. As such, another medium must supplement the services that are being rendered by NITV and Radio Farda, in order to further the reform movement.

This supplement can be found in the many weblogs and websites that are written and edited by Iranian bloggers and webmasters. Iranian weblogs have carved out their own niche in the Blogosphere. The number of such weblogs has proliferated quickly, and traditional media has taken notice of the phenomenon. Iranian weblogs report on all aspects of life in Iran: politics, culture and society. They are valuable as windows into Iranian society, and as a gauge for how events will develop in Iran.

A number of Iranian bloggers have done outstanding work in reporting on events in Iran. Hossein Derakhshan-who lives in Toronto, Canada and who has two weblogs, one in English and the other in Farsi-serves as a sort of clearinghouse for reports coming out of Iran, and for the writings of other Iranian webloggers. The pseudonymous IranianGirl is a blogger who lives in Iran, and her blog entries include commentary on a wide variety of topics that have to do with life in Iran. IranianGirl's blogging has become so prolific, and her insights from Iran are considered so valuable, that blogger and TCS contributor Joe Katzman has invited her to contribute to his blog, where IranianGirl is able to further the spread of news and information about Iran. Even the Iranian-French founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, has recently joined the Blogosphere with a weblog of his own.

While not strictly a weblog, Iran-Daneshjoo serves as a valuable webpage for anyone interested in the latest up-to-date information about the political reform movement in Iran. It includes news updates, messages from the leaders of the reform movement, and announcements of future activities and demonstrations that are sponsored by the reform movement. Considering the complaint of many Iranian reformers regarding the performance of Radio Farda - namely that Radio Farda is not as good as the Persian language version of the VOA at keeping reformers abreast of the latest news about their movement - Iran-Daneshjoo could provide the services to the reform movement that the VOA used to provide.

Iranian blogs have become pervasive and popular enough that they are being targeted and watched by the Islamic regime. Blogger Sina Motallebi has been detained by the Islamic regime for his pro-reform statements on his weblog. The reaction of the Blogosphere in rallying around Motallebi - thanks in large part to the work of Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds in publicizing Motallebi's arrest and his case - demonstrates that the Blogosphere supports the actions of the Iranian weblog community in working to bring positive change in Iran. Hopefully these actions will assist Motallebi in gaining his freedom, and allow him to carry on in his work.

The Blogosphere has already influenced politics, culture and society immeasurably. It was the first medium to pick up and understand the importance of Trent Lott's infelicitous comments at the 100th birthday of former Senator Strom Thurmond. It has won deserved acclaim in its coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom and its discussion of the post-September 11th world in general. Let's hope the Blogosphere, and Iranian bloggers in particular, have the power to influence meaningful and effective change in Iranian culture and society. Keep tabs on Iranian bloggers and reformist Iranian websites. They could very well serve as the cyber-shock troops of a new Iranian revolution.
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