Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tweet Your Way to Human Rights Activism (Even if You’re a Twitter Novice)

Ever since it made its mark on the social activism stage with a starring role in the Moldova "Twitter Revolution" and the post-election riots in Iran, Twitter has secured its place as a valuable tool in organizing, information sharing, and activism.

And this handy form of social media isn’t just useful when you find yourself in the middle of a revolution, there are plenty of ways to use Twitter to get involved in a cause from the comfort of you couch. Yes, mobilization can happen even while wearing a Snuggie.

The first step to getting involved in 140 characters or less is to follow the right people, namely those interested in a similar cause. This extensive list of the top human rights activists is a great place to start. At www.WeFollow.com you can browse the top tweeters in categories like “Activist” and even sort them by the city. You can also follow us and see who we’re following at http://twitter.com/pmaward.

Next, set a personal goal to tweet about a human rights issue or a link to a story at least once a week (as Change.org’s Amanda Kloer suggests). Share a fun fact or a recent news story, re-tweet someone’s cause, or encourage others to join in. Whether it be spreading the word about free speech violations, jailed journalists, or the good work of others, persuade your followers to do what they can to help.

Artist and Poet Laureate Larry Jaffe tweeted the Declaration of Human Rights 140 characters at a time on his twitter account. Jaffe is the first to admit he is no Twitter expert, but one tip he has is to use the platform to connect with people. “Despite the appearance that Twitter is a ‘broadcast’ medium, it really is full of rich emotional interaction,” Jaffe says. “Change happens one person at a time even if you are engaging in a dialog of thousands, you still have to connect.”

And the ultimate form of connecting is collaborating with your fellow Twitterers. Collaboration is really the key to putting the social in your social media activism. Use hashtags to organize tweets about a certain topic or event and join groups so others can find your account. Once you have organized a network with your Twitter peers, it’s up to you to decide where and how far you want to take it.

Christian Kreutz at CrissCrossed points out that although social media sites can easily remain a place mainly for leisure, they also have the potential to harness the power of mass collaboration. And for an idea of what that could look like, think to the campaign against FARC in Columbia that lead to mass rallies, or the campaign in Estonia that lead to a 50,000 person turnout to clean up the entire country in a day.

Inspired yet? Click here to start tweeting.

Credit: Flickr, respres

Monday, December 14, 2009

Iranian authorities banned press from national Student Day protests


In the aftermath of massive demonstrations across Iran this July protesting June's controversial presidential election and the the closure of the reformist newspaper Salam, the Iranian government banned foreign journalists from the December 7th annual Student Day protests, and sought to halt the event altogether.

Student Day is the anniversary of the murder of three students from the University of Tehran on December 7, 1953, by Iranian police under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Every year, there are vigils and protests thoughout the country, most organized by students and taking place at university campuses. Once encouraged by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the commemoration in recent years has become an occasion for students to voice support for the free exercise of fundamental human rights. The relationship between student protesters and government officials became increasingly strained after this summer's demonstrations.

Though Iran is notoriously strict in its press freedoms, the event is usually covered by major news outlets worldwide. But this December 5, the national Culture Ministry's foreign press department sent a text message to journalists, photographers and cameramen working for foreign media in Iran, stating that "All permits issued for foreign media to cover news in Tehran have been revoked from December 7 to December 9."

According to Reporters Without Borders, authorities also blocked internet access by drastically reducing web speed, disabled many cell phone lines, and arrested scores of student activists throughout the country.

"The press freedom situation is getting worse by the day in Iran," Reporters Without Borders said in statement on December 5. "Journalists who have chosen not to leave the country are being constantly threatened or summoned by the intelligence services, including the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards. Some have been given long prison sentences at the end of completely illegal judicial proceedings." The watchdog organization said that 28 journalists and bloggers were detained.

After the protest, which was reported on mainly by students though cell phone messages and hacked internet connections, U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement saying, "The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, and not coercion."

image: Green Lights for Iran