By Kaufmann | April 29, 2008 1 Comment »
In my last blog entry a couple of days ago, I discussed the importance of watchdog NGOs for IFI accountability and transparency, and also gave a list of some NGOs that blog, and of some that do not. Yet nowadays blogging is also of paramount importance for making governments and their actions more transparent and accountable to their citizens. Blog activity during recent events in Kenya and Zimbabwe illustrate.
During the recent Kenya unrest, blogs played a very prominent role, largely positive, particularly given the constraints placed on traditional media (and the ban on live broadcast). Blogs played a key role in providing breaking news, including YouTube clips from local and international sources. They did not fully replace commercial media, of course, but added considerably, and notably so on controversial or suppressed issues, and also regarding news from remote regions where traditional media was absent altogether. Blogs permitted an otherwise missing real time glimpse to what was transpiring with the flawed vote count during the elections in late December. It also provided a key link between the Kenyan diaspora and local Kenyans, which proved important given the role played by the international community in helping find a way to move forward from the violent crisis…
And blogs were not only rapidly informing and expressing views on the political crisis and government actions, and on Kofi Annan’s mediation, but they were also commenting on the international aid community (including the World Bank), illustrating the role that blogs in developing countries also play nowadays (complementing the northern-based NGOs) with respect to accountability by donors and IFIs.
There are also some downsides in blogging that ought not be masked. The challenge of responsible reporting and accountability applies to bloggers and blogging as well. At sensitive times blog commentary has on ocassion been inciendiary. Ethnic hatred was not absent from blogs, although the best blogs managed to keep it to a minimum. Indeed, blog editors, writers and contributors carry an important responsibility, not unlike traditional media, in ensuring little tolerance for hateful commentary or deliberately misleading information.
In fact there was this recent newspaper article (in the Nairobi Star, reproduced in the Kumekucha blog) reviewing blogging in Kenya during the crisis, touching on some of these issues. Without providing an exhaustive list (or pretending to ‘rate’ them), here there are a few other Kenyablogs: siasaduni; kenyanpundit; marsgroup; thinkersroom; kenyanjurist; mentalacrobatics; and a website, kenyalaw.
Likewise these days in Zimbabwe, where blogs are proving crucial to disseminate and keep up with what is really taking place, and for having a freedom of expression medium. There are blogs like ‘This is Zimbabwe’, ‘Zimbabwe today’, ‘Zimbabwe review’, and many more, which are reviewed in the ‘Intute’ blog entry here.
Notwithstanding the reality that the positive impact of blogs to promote improved accountability, governance and transparency far outweigh some of its negatives, the question of when blogging does cross the line cannot be begged — and figuring out what is the appropriate response when such line is crossed. Does the (demand-driven) market test suffice and the more responsible blogs end up dominating, so that the system is self-correcting? Or, to fend off unwarranted calls for outright ban (or closing down of sites), editorial accountability or some degree of filtering is at times needed?