As bloggers in Sri Lanka, do we really have the right (or the honor) to be scared of repression yet? Are we such a troublesome blip on the political radar that we warrant white van teams deployed on our doorsteps and the trouble of equipment of torture sharpened in our faces to make us piss in our pants?
The blogosphere is not without its spats and even death threats. I've seen enough hate comments on various political posts around the place to deduce that much. But how much of these comments are really backed up with the capability and willpower to be followed through with hardcore action, and how many of them are just empty mouth-offs by people who disagree strongly enough or are suitably offended to leave abusive comments behind?
It looks like Dinidu has gone and deleted his blog again. That's a pity 'cos there was a post on it that i wanted to link to, with a very interesting comment by David Blacker.
No matter. The gist of it was that Dinidu had written a post on a disturbing incident that had occurred that he postulated was a result of his journalistic mischeivousness, and a very moving poem elaborating his defiance in the face of such threats accompanied it.
David Blacker followed up with a dose of cynical reality (?) and stated in no uncertain terms that SL bloggers should not really flatter themselves with the notion that they are really that important and should realize that they are too insignificant for the powers that be to bother with them.
Also, Indi tells me that Open Mic is getting affected by the same vibe as well because certain individuals have announced fears of repercussions due to the potentially politically volatile, against-the-status-quo nature of the material being read out.
But all this talk and no evidence of actual harm done to any blogger gets me thinking. It first gets me thinking of the nature of the society we live in, about law and order and the fear that people have of exercising their fundamental rights.
We live in a city and a country where the fear of being a victim of thuggery (political or otherwise) takes precedence over the feeling of assurance of back up from the law. In other words people are basically saying; the law? Screw the effing law, the law won't help me here..
But all this fear could just be founded on empty air.
This article i found links to this MSN survey on the Asian blogosphere in general and one striking fact to me was that politicians across the region fared poorly with only 14% shown to be actually reading blogs. This is with countries like China, Korea, India and Burma in the loop mind you so that is a telling statistic.
Assuming it was the same in SL and only 14% of politicians read blogs and presumably 100% read newspapers, the proportion of violence against newspaper journalists that could be directed towards bloggers would be marginally insignificant.
That is however, merely a play on numbers i admit and speaks nothing of the volatility of the country in question or the conniving brutality of its political class. But here's another interesting statistic;
Research has shown that most blogger arrests have occurred 'In countries where the media is restrained from reporting adversarial news' and where 'blogs continued to be the only source of information'.
In other words, what research has shown is that serious repression against bloggers has only occurred when they are bringing something into the media that is heavily blocked from the public by the respective government in question. It's usually only when they are bringing something new into the sphere of public knowledge in terms of cold hard facts that they are taken seriously enough to warrant action against them.
Like Woeser for instance, 'Tibet's most famous writer and blogger' who was put behind bars for the crime of taking pictures of Chinese military installations. This may seem like a trivial thing maybe. But how many of us actually go to the extent of performing some real investigative journalism and going through dangerous shit to get some pics or information to put up on our blogs?
Not many of us. Most of us (including me) merely harp about what we see and hear in the news, receive in e-mails etc . As a community of bloggers we are mainly reactive, and not very proactive.
The big fish are the guys who actually go out there and get the kind of information that gets people worried. And they are the ones that we usually talk about. So it makes sense to repress them first and cut off the sources of information we usually use to blog. Any old fool can voice dissent in terms of opinion, but it takes a real crazy sonofabitch to actually go out looking for the facts in order to bring them to light.
And i may not be all that political in my blogs (you can hardly call posts about tea ladies and peeping toms political) but i'v got eyes and ears. So what do you think? is there any real danger? or are we just flattering ourselves a wee little bit more than we should be?