Wednesday, May 10, 2006

When Blogging isn’t Just a Hobby

Despite what many people in the world think about Israel these days, I am very thankful to be living in a country where free speech is something we take for granted and do not have to think about. We cannot be arrested or prosecuted for voicing opposition to the government or the state, the newspapers are not mouthpieces for the nation’s ruling class, and as bloggers, we can essentially write whatever we want without official repercussions. So we blog, writing whatever comes to mind, whether it be about our personal lives, current events, or our opinions regarding government policies and actions. If we so choose, we do not have to hide behind anonymous identities, nor do we have to fear for our safety when making our opinions known.

We are the lucky ones. In many neighboring countries, the right to free speech that we take for granted here in Israel is a scarce entity indeed, with bloggers being forced to look over their shoulders as they write, often blogging anonymously, knowing that their views will be less than popular with the party in power. Those who choose to blog without cloaking their identities are courageous individuals, brave souls who are prepared to suffer the consequences for the “crime” of supporting democracy and freedom of speech. These bloggers deserve our support, and we cannot remain passive when one of our “brethren” is silenced.

This is the case with Egyptian blogger Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, who was recently arrested by Egyptian police during a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration along with 47 other individuals (including six bloggers), and is being detained for 15 days. A campaign to have him released from an Egyptian prison has been started by a number of bloggers, and is being chronicled on Free Alaa! (the blog). This incredible travesty of justice being carried out by the Egyptian government to specifically target vocal pro-democracy supporters should be a wake-up call to all who value free speech and democratic ideals.

In addition to the Free Alaa! site, many other bloggers have taken it upon themselves to spread the word to their readers worldwide, with one of the more prominent bloggers being the Egyptian Sandmonkey, who explains how you can make your views known to the Egyptian government. This post on Global Voices Online describes the Google Bombing technique being used by bloggers in order to publicize the Free Alaa! site, and is definitely worth a look.

Please take the time to help Free Alaa and all other pro-democracy supporters who are rotting away in Egyptian prisons. Show the Egyptian government that the world will not – indeed, cannot – remain silent in the face of such injustice.


NiHao said...

It's crazy to think that before reading this post, I had never heard about this story at all. And I read several international papers and news magazines as a matter of daily life!

Liza said...

Which is precisely why the blogosphere is such an amazing place. This story is being spread throughout the blogging world at an incredible pace, with similar posts coming from all over the Arab world, Europe, the US, Latin America, etc. We are all coming together to help a fellow blogger, and we're not letting borders and barriers stop us from getting the word out. I believe the story is starting to be picked up in the mainstream media, but I'm guessing that wouldn't have happened without the blogger campaign.

Anonymous said...

Let us release and free a nation first from prison first ,crocodile tears.

Liza said...

Anonymous, Would you care to elaborate on that cryptic comment? I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say.