Blogging for Dissidents

A Handbook and a Change of Heart

Colour my community, by carf, with Creative Commons licenceBlogging, like life, has a habit of sneaking up on you and offering something different from what you expected. I had intended to use this post to introduce a new set of microreviews in the sidebar, but circumstances led me to a change of heart. I decided to drop the negative No! No! No! review category and use the spare text box for something far more important – a link to the Handbook for Blogging and Cyber-Dissidents published by Reporters Without Borders. A copy of the handbook’s cover is there now on the right, with a brief explanation of what it’s all about.

I came by the handbook through a slightly twisted route that’s worth mentioning because it’ll feature in another post soon. Like the photographs in this post, a good few of the photos I’ve been using lately were posted on Flickr by the Children at Risk Foundation. CARF operates in Brazil and the Netherlands to defend the rights of street kids, and to help them out. Gregory Smith, the organisation’s founder, takes the stunning photos, which shift me through a range of emotions even as they move through other people’s more difficult but no less promising lives.

The CARF blog includes a link to the handbook, and when I downloaded it I started to think more about what I have been trying to achieve lately. Although I still intend to shift between ideas and activism, between abstracts and specifics, I’ve been drawn increasingly to describing the plight of those around me, the people who are so often forgotten in the rush to develop, to improve, to live better lives.

Had I lived in Brazil I might have written about street kids, but there in Hong Kong I’m particularly concerned about the circumstances and mistreatment of migrant workers. The people around me, my friends, what my wife used to be, what my sister-in-law still is. And one of the things that I’m just starting to do, in the aftermath of Vicenta Flores’ disappearance and death, is to help educate domestic helpers about their rights, to help them speak about their circumstances. Given that focus, the blogging handbook will be an ideal tool.

Starting with the basics, including how to establish and maintain a blog, the handbook also includes tips and instructions on avoiding censorship and remaining anonymous. My understanding from speaking to people concerned that their rights are being restricted is that a fear of identification cripples most opportunities to speak out for change. With the handbook I’ll be able to promote self education and self protection.

Rays of hope... by carf, with Creative Commons licenceIf you’re reading this and think the handbook could help you, just click on the link to visit the appropriate Reporters Without Borders webpage. You can view the handbook itself online, or download it as a PDF file if you want to keep or print a copy. You could also tell anyone you know who might be interested. In the near future I’ll write more about this because it’s helping me to reconsider the importance of citizen journalism, how it just might be able to shine a light of hope into darkened lives.

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