Karina and Shakira from Blog Action Day had a chat to our partner Global Voices about why they are supporting Blog Action Day 2015, their new project AdVox that highlights online censorship and attacks on bloggers, and why it is important to #RaiseYourVoice. 

Global Voices What is your name and what do you do at Global Voices?

Sahar Habib Ghazi, Managing Editor

 

What is Global Voices, where is it based and why are your interested in supporting Blog Action Day?

Global Voices is a border-less, largely volunteer community of more than 1400 writers, analysts, online media experts and translators.

We don’t have a physical office, but work as a virtual community across multiple time zones, often from our homes, cafés or public libraries. Global Voices is incorporated in the Netherlands as Stichting Global Voices, a nonprofit foundation.

Global Voices has been leading the conversation on citizen media reporting since 2005 and have been big supporters of Blog Action Day over the years. We curate, verify and translate trending news and stories you might be missing on the Internet, from blogs, independent press and social media in 167 countries—and translate into more than 35 languages.

What is the mission of  Global Voices?

We work to find the most compelling and important stories coming from marginalized and misrepresented communities. We speak out against online censorship and support new ways for people to gain access to the Internet.

What are you “Raising your Voice “about on October 16? 

We would like to talk about the work of our  Advox project which reports on threats to online speech, shares tactics for defending the work and words of netizens, and support efforts to improve Internet policy and practice worldwide.

Why is blogging and open access to the internet important?

As bloggers, activists, journalists and savvy Internet users, we recognize that universal human rights to free expression, access to information, and privacy are being challenged by governments, companies, and other powerful actors worldwide.

Why do you think that it is important for people to raise their voices?

With over 1400 contributors in 120 countries, we believe that the Global Voices community is uniquely positioned to do something about this. We aim to leverage our great strength – our networks, our knowledge, and the voices we seek to amplify – to make our site a central space for anyone eager to learn about emerging issues, discover advocacy efforts, and work together as new challenges emerge and old fights continue.

Who do you find inspiring for raising their voice?

Each and every one of our contributors living in countries where they face persecution for speaking out. Particularly, we would like to give a shout out to four Zone9 bloggers, who have been behind bars in Ethiopia for over a year after being accused of “inciting public disorder via social media”.

Initially nine members of the blog collective were arrested and after spending eleven weeks in jail, they were charged on July 17, 2014 under the Anti- Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. The bloggers reported that they were tortured and mistreated in prison, but the full extent of their experience has yet to be documented publicly.

They appeared in court nearly thirty times from July 2014 to June 2015. On July 8 and 9, 2015, five of the nine arrested writers were released from prison in Addis Ababa. Authorities have offered no plausible explanation for this sudden change in course, though human rights advocates surmised that the partial release of Zone9 writers was an official attempt to deflect mounting criticism about Ethiopia’s human rights record approaching Obama’s July visit.

The Global Voices community holds the Zone9 case especially close to our hearts as four of the detainees are members of our community who led efforts to translate Global Voices stories in Amharic, the dominant language of Ethiopia.The Zone9ers were working to foster political debate and discussion in a country where most media outlets fall under heavy control by government authorities.

What can ordinary people do to highlight a situation or support someone who voice has been silenced?

Write about the issue. Share articles talking about the issue. Be the voice that has been silenced.

Talking about unpopular or difficult issues can be hard. What tips do you have for bloggers who may not have spoken about difficult issues before?

The internet can be an incredibly polarizing and intimidating place for difficult conversations. Many unpopular topics also bring on trolls. If you are about to write about something that can raise the anger or attention of vocal groups on two-ends of the spectrum, be sure to do your research, so that both sides are addressed, and you know what you are getting into. What are your goals with the blog? Do you want to find some middle ground or do you believe in clearly supporting one side? Know the spectrum and actors involved in the issue. Have a plan for dealing with trolls — will you engage or not feed them?

If bloggers could do one thing today to make a difference what would it be?

Speak out for bloggers that have been threatened, intimidated or arrested for speaking out.

How do you think that an event like Blog Action Day can make a difference?

It can help raise attention to critical issues and highlight some of the leading voices taking on the world’s greatest injustices, important issues and holding the powerful accountable.