Arab bloggers aim to boost cyberactivism

January 20, 2014
Egyptian anti-government bloggers work on their laptops from Cairo's Tahrir square on February 10, 2011

Arab bloggers on Monday discussed ways to boost cyberactivism at a meeting in the Jordanian capital, faced with new challenges three years after the start of Internet-fuelled revolts in their region.

"Discussions today included and how to defend ourselves through the Internet," Leila Nachawtai, a media coordinator at the launch of the Fourth Arab Bloggers Summit, told AFP.

Bloggers and activists from across the Middle East and North Africa are taking part in the four-day meeting "to debate and develop new strategies to deal with the rising challenges," organisers said in a statement.

"The summit is very important to explore ways of reporting news in any country and enhancing our roles as activists and bloggers," said Nachawtai, a Syrian-Spanish activist, writer and professor of Communications at Carlos III University in Madrid.

Only Thursday, the final day of the gathering, is open to media. Bloggers are to discuss censorship and surveillance, as well as "the shifting winds of activism."

Participants include Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and journalist who addressed the US Congress last year on drone attacks on Yemen and was picked by Foreign Policy magazine as one of 100 global change makers for 2013.

Also among the speakers is Dubai-based commentator Sultan al-Qassemi, who was listed in the "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011" by TIME magazine.

Many activists in the region maintain that social media helped keep up the momentum of the protests that began in Tunisia, toppled two more dictators in Egypt and Libya in 2011, and continue to shake the region.

"The dire state of the region—and the increasingly central role that the Internet and social media are playing in shaping it—has added greater urgency to the summit," the organisers' statement said.

"Uncertainty about the future and political polarisation in the region have made attempted transitions to democracy difficult and often painful, especially for those of us, netizens, who supported and helped drive it."

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