BlogSafer Anonymous Blogging Button

If you’d like to support the BlogSafer project, please copy the code below and paste it into your sidebar. It will create a button like the one to the right that sends the reader to the ‘anoniblog’ wiki. That wiki contains a series of anonymous blogging guides in English, Arabic, Persian and Chinese. The project was underwritten by Spirit of America.

You’ll need to remove the space between the ”

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Mojtaba Has Been Released

According to RSF:

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the early release of blogger Mojtaba Saminejad, who was serving a combined sentence of two years and 10 months in prison. He was formally freed on 12 September but had in fact been on home leave since June. Arrested in February 2005, he spent nearly 18 months in prison for a few messages posted on his blog.

Saminejad was first arrested on 1 November 2004 for criticising the arrest of three fellow bloggers online. While held, his blog’s address was diverted to the website of a group linked to the Iranian radical Islamist movement Hezbollah. On leaving prison on 27 January 2005, he resumed his blog using a new address (, which led to his re-arrest a few days later.

He was initially sentenced on 23 March 2005 to two years in prison for “insulting the Supreme Guide.” At a second trial, he was given an additional 10-month sentence “publishing false information with the aim of unsettling public opinion” and “immoral” behaviour. He was held in Gohar Dashat prison, in a suburb of Tehran, which is notorious for mistreating its inmates. He shared a cell with non-political detainees. He
was allowed to sit mid-course exams at Tehran’s Azad university at the end of January, although he was led in handcuffs into the examination room.

Another Iranian blogger, Arash Sigarchi, was first held for two months at the start of 2005. He was sent back to prison on 26 January 2006, four days after being given a three-year sentence for “insulting the Supreme Guide” and “propaganda against the regime.” He says he has not been mistreated in prison.

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Alaa is Freed

Detained Egyptian blogger Alaa has been released from Egyptian police and state security. They made sure he got beaten first, of course.

Go here for more about Alaa and his release.

I’m taking down the banner in the sidebar. But that doesn’t mean the danger’s over for him, or for the other bloggers in Iran, China and elsewhere and for the protestors in Egypt.

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A collective conscience for the wired world

Since the op-ed I was invited to write by Canada’s National Post is no longer accessible, I am republishing it here. This draft is not as tight as the published version, but it will have to do.

A Collective Conscience for the Wired World

On February 22, in a closed “revolutionary court” in Iran, Arash Sigarchi was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. In addition to being a journalist, Sigarchi is a blogger. A blog, for those who have not heard, short for “web log,” is nothing more than an online journal. On his blog, Mr. Sigarchi protested the months-long crackdown by the Iranian government on bloggers, online and print journalists.

The cover charges of which this secret tribunal found Sigarchi guilty included, untenably, espionage and, weirdly, insulting Iran’s leaders. His real crime was speaking his mind, not just to other Iranians, but to the world at large via his blog and by agreeing to interviews with BBC’s Persian service and Radio Farda. Sigarchi is not alone. Fellow blogger Mojtaba Saminejad was recently rearrested after failing to pay his doubled bail. And today, blogger Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi was sentenced to six months in prison under the same charges.

The Iranian government is currently the most zealous persecutor of bloggers in the world. One reason for this, aside from the obvious distaste of all despotic governments for unfettered speech, is that Farsi, or Persian, the language of Iran, is the fourth most popular language in the blogosphere. Iranians, with their long history of intellectual achievement and worldliness, have taken to blogging like few other nations. After Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan authored the first Persian-language blogging software in November of 2001, blogging was a fait accompli in Iran.

But blogging is growing like mad around the world, matching and perhaps even surpassing the steep adoption rate of other influential online communications technologies. When I first researched the number of blogs, in late December, the blog search engine Technorati counted 5.4 million. Today they count 7.3 million. And the more bloggers there are, the more conflicts will arise.

Blogging is antithetical to government control of speech. Blogging is easy to do, with free or cheap software and hosting services providing the bulk of what’s needed. It provides the thrill of speaking your mind without censure. The culture of the blogosphere, as the world of blogs has come to be known, is one of radical re-contextualization. Quoting, linking, footnoting, commenting all help to rapidly pass on information. As blogging grows, more countries will begin to clamp down on them, just as they already clamp down on journalists, contributors to online bulletin boards and editors of non-blog websites.

Because Iran is currently the most egregious oppressors of bloggers, the Committee to Protect Bloggers mounted a campaign to free Mojtaba and Arash. Free Mojtaba and Arash Day took place on February 22. We encouraged bloggers around the world to dedicate their blogs to their two imprisoned brothers in Iran. Thousands of bloggers downloaded banners, or made their own; splashed only the words “Free Mojtaba and Arash” across their blogs or blogged on the detentions at length. Hundreds left comments on our site and on others’. Iranian bloggers showed up by the hundreds, at one point making up 12% of our visitors. From February 21 to February 23, our site received over 20,000 unique visitors. Google now lists 11,000 sites that mention us and Technorati counts 1,300 links to our site. Bellwether blogs like InstaPundit and the Daily Kos promoted the day, and it was covered by American public radio, the BBC, CNET and other mainstream media.

In the middle of the day on February 22, we received notice that Arash had been convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. It was disheartening news, to say the least. The timing of the announcement by the Iranian government could hardly have been accidental. I believe the intention was to rob a worldwide, grassroots, cross-cultural groundswell of its momentum. Needless to say, it did not work. Nor did the charge that we are an “American” group. (American in this case meaning government-run.) Bloggers are not like other groups. They cannot be hierarchized. The blogosphere is a constantly changing, self-correcting system. Trying to cow bloggers is like trying to herd cats or squash water.

Bloggers are now a force in civil society, much as they have become a force in the world of journalism. Now that bloggers have awakened to both their power and their responsibility, they will clamp down like pit bulls and replicate like Cerebrus.

Nothing can be done now without this linked network, this worldwide organic supercomputer-with-a-soul, from spotting it, spelling it and passing it on. I hardly mean to say, as the Constable so unfortunately did, “A very little little let us do. And all is done.” Eliminating the ability of repressive governments to silence its people is a perpetual process, not a goal to be quickly achieved, not even in the accelerated world of the 21st century. Bloggers are just one more force against which governments living in perpetual fear of their own people will have to struggle. But we’re an unconquerable force: We’re legion, we’re everywhere, and we’re spoiling for a fight.

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And That’s The Way It Is…Dangerous, For Bloggers Too

In Clyde Haberman’s column in the New York Times today, “And That’s The Way It Is…Dangerous,” he ends his lionization of the brave men and women of the Armoured Press Division by distinguishing them from the contemptible fools of the blogosphere.

Journalists. There’s a word that has been stretched almost beyond elasticity. It now extends to the fact-free bloggers offering little more than attitude.

As both a blogger and a journalist, I took exception to the characterization and told him so in an email.

I think you do a disservice to both bloggers and journalists when you indict the former, in whole-cloth, as “fact-free.” Further, I’m reasonably certain that the governments who have interrogated, tortured, lashed and imprisoned these bloggers don’t think of them as having “little more than attitude.”

Certainly among bloggers there are plenty of boobs. However, having worked as a journalist (as a “real” journalist — I have a piece coming out in the LA Times on the 12th) off and on for over a decade, I’m quite certain that the boob-free newsroom has yet to see the light of day. I’ve endured my share of under-educated, talentless nits (with valid SPJ cards!) who offer little more than their own exaggerated sense of self-regard to a public they serve with increasing contempt. Nevertheless, as irritating and omnipresent as these sorts are, I hesitate to tar all journalists with the same brush.

In an era of decreasing foreign coverage by traditional news sources I think we can legitimately “stretch” the definition of journalist to include, for instance, The Zimbabwean Pundit, who gathers information, presents it (along with occasional analysis) to a mass audience in a country with no free press and no resident foreign journalists. That sounds like journalism to me, or pretty close anyway, close enough not to reduce the “elasticity” of the definition.

Also, please note that Mr. Vincent was a blogger in addition to being a journalist. Another blogger, Bob Zangas was killed in Iraq in March of 2004. Among the bloggers covering that conflict is Christopher Allbritton. You probably know him as Time magazine’s correspondent. I knew him first as a blogger.

Haberman responded:

I was referring only to those bloggers who are indeed fact-free and all-attitude. This was in no way an indictment of everyone, except in the eyes of those who choose to see it that way.

If I understand Mr. Haberman’s statement correctly (and it’s so strangely phrased I’m not sure I do), I, by merely seeing an indictment, have inexplicably chosen to do so. In other words, it was the reader who was in error, not the writer.

I think Mr. Haberman’s contemptuous flick of the wrist toward bloggers and dramatic praise of journalists speaks for itself, and is a fair degree clearer than his explanation.

Again, as a journalist and a blogger I get fairly impatient with the poo-flingers from either side. Not every journalist is an arrogant idiot–some prevail against fairly difficult circumstances in today’s media world–and not every blogger is an unreasoning fulminator. But that’s a more difficult story for both sides to write.

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Another Media Magnate Threatens to Sue Bloggers

With an apparently complete lack of irony, Sir Tony O’Reilly, CEO of Independent News & Media, says, in an interview in the Sunday Times, “You can trust newspaper writers. Can you trust a blogger?”

In this interview, pointed to by Back Seat Drivers, Sir Tony advocates for “’Napster-style’ action against those who breach newspaper copyright.”

In other words, Sir Tony, an obviously cutting-edge thinker, figures the best way to combat two decades of decline in newspaper readership is to sue bloggers. Perhaps he figures that by so doing, suddenly all those former readers who fled the Independent’s moribundity, self-satisfaction and arrogance, will flood back.

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Cross-posted to CPB

Guardsman Punished for Blog

Blogger Leonard Clark, a member of the Arizona National Guard (U.S.) and currently stationed in Iraq has been busted down in rank to private first class and fined.

According to a report in the Army Times

Clark “has been punished for violating operational security and for 11 counts of disobeying orders.”

Spc. Leonard A. Clark was busted down one rank to private first class, fined $820 per month for two months, and sentenced to 45 days restriction and 45 days of extra duty. The restriction and extra duty were suspended for five months.

In response to a query by a reporter with National Public Radio, MCF-Iraq public affairs released a written statement saying that Clark had been found guilty of 11 specifications of Article 92, failure to obey an order, and two counts of Article 134, reckless endangerment.

Clark violated Article 92 by “releasing classified information regarding unit soldiers and convoys being attacked or hit by an improvised explosive devices on various dates, discussing troop movements on various dates,” according to the statement. He also was found to have released tactics, techniques, procedures and rules of engagement, MCF-Iraq said.

The two Article 134 specifications had to do with releasing specific sensitive information “that the enemy forces could foreseeably access … such that with that information it was likely that the enemy forces could cause death or serious bodily harm to U.S. forces engaged in the same or similar mission,” the statement said.

Clark has been a frequent critic of U.S. involvement in Iraq. He has also been described as a “perennial candidate” for public office in Arizona.

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Cross-posted at CPB