Back in the day, bloggers who didn't do any reporting like Mickey Kaus and Jeff Jarvis and probably Glenn Reynolds used to spend a great deal of time talking about how the blogs (specifically their blogs) would soon supplant the "Main Stream Media" forever. Well, some years have passed, and the MSM is in dire straits, but blogs have not really made much of a dent in CNN and the New York Times' market share, eyeballs-wise, and the boundary-blurring has manifested itself mainly as old school publications getting a little more "webby" in tone and content. There is one metric, though, that has bloggers pulling ahead of their MSM counterparts: jail time! The Committee to Protect Journalists just released its 2008 prison census, and as you can see in the attached pie chart, internet people finally make up a greater share of the journo prison population than snooty newspaper jerks. Way to go, internet, and Burma! [CPJ]
This would be ironically funny as an Onion article, but in real life it's just awful: Hossein Derakhshan, pictured, is a Toronto-based Iranian blogger who has grown more pro-Iran over the past two years, supporting the country's nuclear program and its three-decade-old Islamic revolution in the press. The dual Iranian-Canadian citizen blogs in both English and Farsi and generally tries to help people understand his home country. PR win for Iran and its blogger-in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right? Actually no, because Derakhshan visited Israel last year for a blogging conference, and bogged there to "show the Iranians a more realistic image of this country," so he's been thrown in jail during a visit home, as a spy, reports The Media Line:
Raja Petra Kamarudin, a blogger in Malaysia, will be released from from government detainment today, after having been arrested on September 12th for no reason. Raja Petra is—you'll never guess!—"one of the most vocal critics of the current government," according go the Times. What was the critism that made the government mad enough to lock him up for two months?
Steve Barnes (pictured), the restaurant critic for the Albany Times-Union, was coming out of a restaurant with a friend last Friday night when, with no warning, two young men walked up nonchalantly and beat them up. "They said nothing, just punched us both repeatedly in the face." Barnes doesn't think he was targeted because he was gay, and he doesn't think he was targeted by the restaurant he just left—but he does think he was targeted:
Back in June we told you about Gopalan Nair (pictured), a US citizen living in Singapore who was arrested for writing mean things about a judge on his blog. He accused the judge of "prostituting herself," and goaded the police by posting his address and phone number. His arrest was international news, but it appears that Singapore's authorities didn't learn their lesson: Nair now says he'll be going to trial next month, facing up to two years in jail. Who is this brave man standing up for free online speech in the face of an unyielding corrupt power structure? He's kind of a crank! But the charming, revolutionary type: Nair is a Singapore-born lawyer who became a US citizen in 2005. He says the he left Singapore because he was "harassed and persecuted" for his political beliefs. Nair has been posting long entries on his blog about his ongoing case. He strikes you as the type of person you see at City Council meetings throughout America, waiting to get up and harangue the politicians about their corruption and failure to fix stoplights. But in Nair's case, he's talking about the cane-you-for-chewing-gum culture of Singapore, so you have to believe he's on the side of the angels. This little excerpt gives you an idea of his personality:
So this is fun. Back in January, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson sent a subpoena to Room Eight, a local politics blog. The subpoena demanded "identifying details of a Room Eight blogger who wrote under the name 'Republican Dissident,' as well as the authors of a dozen comments on his posts." Are you alarmed yet? Here's the kicker: the subpoena was sealed, with an all-caps warning threatening prosecution if the contents of it were revealed. Now, six months later, the DA's finally given up. And we can all read about how a random functionary on the Bronx Board of Elections got the DA's office—without the DA's knowledge, according to Johnson!—to threaten to expose and prosecute an anonymous blogger and a dozen anonymous commenters, just for criticizing her. So yes the forces of good and anonymous online criticism won out this time. But here's why it's still scary:
Yikes. Media Consortium blogger Brian Beutler was shot in Washington DC last night, a block away from my old apartment. Or pretty much directly in front of Andrew Sullivan's apartment. He is expected to make a full recovery. And next time, thanks to the Supreme Court, he will be able to shoot back. [DCist, Photo]
One unmitigated good that's come of the lawlessness of the Internet is that it's allowed daring bloggers in third world countries to flout their authoritarian regimes (Kos and HuffPo just like to think they do the same). Egypt, China, Iran, and Pakistan have all jailed online diarists and tried to block the rest of the population from even accessing international media. All have failed for the same reason samizdat entered the lexicon in the cold war: dissidents are more enterprising than their persecutors. (At left, activists demanding the release of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, who was sentenced to four years in prison and then became a cause celebre).
Good news for the Associated Press! "In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006," an annual report from the University of Washington reveals. The majority of arrests since 2003 have taken place in Iran, China, and Egypt, though the US of A gets a mention: "The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US." Thats fine, fine company we're in, isn't it? Of course, the reported number could be deceptively low.
Gopalan Nair, a US citizen and blogger, was arrested and charged in Singapore for insulting a judge. He accused the judge of prostituting herself in a vituperative email and blog post. Then he basically asked to be arrested: "In another post on his blog Saturday, Nair taunted authorities, saying he was in Singapore at a particular hotel, and also gave his phone number." So bilious! Also, kinda dumb! Anyway, we'll add Singapore to the list. [AFP]