11 August 2009

Protest and Social Media in Iran

While the United States media focuses the bulk of its attention on screaming people at "town hall" meetings (presumably about health care) and the fact that Michael Jackson is STILL dead, I thought it was important to take a look at what real journalism looks like today and at how high the stakes really are for free speech in some places in the world.

Earlier this week, I was very fortunate to speak briefly with Hamid Tehrani, Iran Editor for Global Voices Online. He's been covering Iran's presidential election and its aftermath. In my opinion no one has provided better coverage than GVO, because they are able to curate the primary source material, translate it in many languages, and present it in its proper context. Hamid has written extensively on the protests and the use of social media to facilitate and report on them.

So much of the "social media coverage" of these protests has been about the tools, and they're no doubt important. But I still think this story is still about the people, the messages, the stories, and what's at stake. Hamid made some excellent points about how social classes have come together in protests, something you wouldn't expect to see in Iran. And for all the talk about Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, I loved his point about history. In 1978 the Ayahtolla distributed audio cassettes to spread his message and people climbed to their rooftops to yell "God is great" in protest. Today, they're using social media tools, but the protesters are still going to the rooftops and they're still chanting "God is great."

The audio quality is so-so, I'm still getting the hang of it. But this is well worth a listen - just under 20 minutes. Here's a link to the page on the Internet Archive. It's also embedded here.

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