Thursday, March 09, 2006

Citizen Journalism: It's Beginning in Morocco


Recently, I have been thinking about how citizen journalism (news reported and analyzed by ordinary citizens and amateur journalists rather than by formal news agencies) could have a positive effect on democratization processes in the "developing" world. In general, I believe that democratization must come from the citizens, from the grassroot. Top-down democratization, led half-heartedly by an authoritarian government, or democratization imposed by foreign country are not only illegitimate, they are ineffective.

Citizen journalism is a great way for citizens to get involved in politics. By recording events or just voicing their opinions, citizens engage actively and critically in public affairs. Web-based citizen journalism goes one step further. It brings instant, large-scale, low-cost access to citizen media. In the "developing" world, low cost is key. If a project is to be sustainable, it must be low-cost. If a project is to be independent from foreign or government funding, it must be low-cost. This is the beauty of the internet. With a couple of clicks, a blog post is published at almost no cost to the writer and at very low cost to the consumer. Low-cost means wide availability and wide availability means influence and influence translates into power. When the power of citizens increases, so does democracy.

I went to Marrakech (see photo) this past Monday to meet with Tarik Essaadi, the founder of EMarrakech, a news website, and Blog.ma, a blogging site. He and I decided to work together, along with his design team, to create a citizen media website by and for Moroccans. It will be called "e-mowatan." (In Arabic, "mowatan" means "citizen"). It will begin as a blog an then, if there is enough interest, it can be expanded into a full website. I am already thinking of ways we can use the website to cover the 2007 parliamentary elections... but I shouldn't get ahead of myself, let's just see how this plays out.

categories: the "developing" world_, morocco_, citizen journalism_, redefining democratization_

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