For Blog Action Day 2015 we’ve invited Romanian blogger Madalin Blidaru to write a blog on the #BAD2015 #RaiseYourVoice theme on his experiences raising his own voice and starting a blog in Romania. Madalin will be participating in the debate throughout the day on October 16 through his Twitter handle @blidaru. The PIN Blog is entirely crowd-sourced, so if you’d like to write a future PIN Blog just email us firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us @PIN_Network.
Blog Action Day 2015 proposes the topic #RaiseYourVoice and encourages participants to pay attention to related topics. Therefore, I am starting from a brief introduction on the risks that I have encountered since I published my first blog post, and dived into the unknown dangers of blogging.
Until now, the best decision that I have taken in my life, related to my professional adventure, was to create a blog. That was after reading some debates in the Romanian blogosphere. I made this decision in November 2008, seven years ago, and started growing up writing article by article. I was motivated by the possibilities of sharing different ideas, of receiving feedback on what I was doing and by the learning potential. Starting to publish daily, I realized that it is not enough to inform, but also to get involved in the debates. And this is the point when I started criticizing, providing solutions and getting involved in legitimate debates on what is happening in my community.
The unthinkable impact of your words
First, the fear of being known in the community quickly diminishes. You will be surprised by how welcome your message will be. Responsibility and accountability come with your message. Your information can help people make choices, decide, start a new project or contribute to a cause. The voice of a blogger, citizen journalist, social media opinion leader or online journalist can be taken into consideration by different people from different backgrounds, therefore you have to think about the added value of your action, about its impact. I would like to say that this impact, safe or not safe, can persuade you to go further, to participate in debates and to be more informed. Not being well-prepared is a risk when your words have public impact. Unwillingly, you can promote hate speech or hurt people with your words. Your messages say a lot about who you are.
Some good ideas can hurt
Another aspect discovered through blogging was that I am not living in a paradise, among people with good intentions. On the contrary, I can sincerely affirm, far from an idealistic approach, the ones that were on the move were those guided by self-interest and common enemies. Therefore, I met threats and advice about how not to make people angry with what I was writing. As a personal reflection, if I had the chance to follow these (not so positive) recommendations, what were the experiences of some people that went further with their investigations and well documented articles, is blogging a rational choice? The truth is that citizen journalism can hurt. Depending on the person, depending on the level of information, many of their dreams can become shattered. However, the closed society (or almost closed) can be opened.
By raising your voice, you are striving to open the community you are living in. If I said that I’ve been blogging about my well-governed city, where citizens are actively participating in the life of the community, with a participatory attitude of its citizens, I’d be lying. Let me give you a practical example. As I have become more and more active on my blog, I participated at many events and discovered that there were very few people trying to do something new, not innovative but necessary. I was surprised to see the supportive attitude of a small civil society and unbiased media on some initiatives. It was a start and, now I am thinking on coming back with some initiatives for the local community, if not for that city, for the county’s rural areas. And these risky thoughts, given the enemies of pluralism, are the ones that made me think more about what I can do for my community.
Power of criticism and its risks around the world
“Once we begin to rely upon our reason, and to use our powers of criticism, once we feel the call of personal responsibilities, and with it, the responsibility of helping to advance knowledge, we cannot return to a state of implicit submission to tribal magic.” (Popper, 1947)
Being a strong supporter of the open society also asks questions about the good alternatives to this society. However, when we are talking about reason, criticism, freedom of speech, pluralism, responsibility, humanitarianism, this paradigm offers per se indicators on the state of the world. Democracy under assault, human rights abuses and criticism brutally stopped are some of the current issues daily read in the news.
All over the world, the freedom of speech is in danger. Bloggers, citizen journalists or simply social media user are living in an Orwellian state of nature. In free societies, they can ask for help. In other societies, they are threatened, jailed, tortured or killed.
The World Press Freedom Index 2015, developed by Reporters without Borders, highlights a “decline on all fronts” with a deteriorating freedom of information, even for European states, with countries such as Italy and Iceland in decline. Freedom House presents the case of Ukraine’s decision to ban 34 journalists and 7 bloggers on September 16th, perceived as threats to national security. Moreover, bloggers from different regions are on hit lists of radical militant groups, proving that there are no safe places.
Amnesty International campaigned in 2014, in its Letter Writing Marathon, for the case of Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment for fostering social and political debates. He received the first set of lashes and the entire world is watching this case.
I have highlighted some extreme cases, but the risks are wider. From defamation accusations to harassment, people, businesses and governments and other organizations are fighting against freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. Independent blogging and journalism are the risky and necessary solutions.
Madalin Blidaru is studying International Relations at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest, Romania. In his free time, Madalin writes blog posts at blidaru.net and coordinates the activity of Asociatia Se Poate, a youth NGO based in Bucharest. You can follow him at @blidaru.