ASSIGNMENT: Write a 300-word blog providing the context for your country: do citizen journalists exist there? How is internet infrastructure and access? Is it censored? What social media tools are most popular among citizen journalists? Mention one or two prominent or emerging voices. If there are no citizen journalists, write a piece analyzing why.
The prevalence of citizen journalism in Azerbaijan is slim to none, and although it seems multiple pilot programs have been started, nothing has come out of it.
New forms of social media play a large role in providing a platform for citizen journalism to emerge to not only inform, but also to mobilize mass quantities of people. Sites like Facebook have the government concerned about the rising level of activism, but authorities cannot completely prevent the public from going on due to the accessible nature of social media. However, to deter people, the government uses evidence found on Facebook to arrest people. For example, the government used Facebook information to justify the arrest of eight activist members from the opposition youth group NIDA days before a Facebook-organized protest. According to former U.S. Diplomat Rebecca Vincent,
“…These eight young men appear to have been targeted in part for their online activism. Like many other young Azerbaijanis, prior to their arrest, they were all active users of social media networks, particularly Facebook. Several of the activists were administrators of the “Heydar Aliyev Page” on Facebook, which provided a forum for satirical political discussion.”[x]
In fact, in 2013, President Aliyez signed a piece of legislation that allows citizens to serve up to three years in jail for the nature of their online postings.
Yet despite this, protests, groups, and demonstrations have been organized through the ease of spread of information by social media and in early March a protest against non-combat solider deaths was related with an impressive 15,000 RSVP’ed online, with a still impressive 4,000-5,000 people showing up.[x]
Additionally, several organizations such as InterNews Azerbaijan, International Media Support and the Eurasia Partnership have adopted programs to encourage younger generations to engage in citizen journalism, but access to the results of the programs are hard to find and not readily available in English.
Note: I did manage to find one blog through the Eurasia Project that utilizes E-Media to produce unbiased pieces by both established journalists and bloggers, check it out here.
If you’d like to find out more about this issue, check out the following links: