Exploring the transitional role of online actors in a rapidly changing MENA region
A Heinrich Böll Foundation-Global Voices joint event
20-23 JANUARY, 2014 • AMMAN, Jordan
About | Agenda | Speakers | Media Corner
Three years since the start of the Arab uprisings, digital activists and bloggers in the Middle East and North Africa are facing new political paradigms and challenges to their work. Uncertainty about the future and political polarization have made attempted transitions to democracy difficult and often painful, especially for activists and bloggers, who supported and helped drive these movements. AB14 will:
• Showcase MENA region community-based projects that are advancing civic engagement online
• Build collaborative knowledge around advocacy, digital security, and policy issues
• Discuss current political trends and challenges in a live, public forum
The 2014 Arab Bloggers Meeting will begin with three, closed-session days of workshops with activists and bloggers from the region. On January 23, we will host a public forum with panel discussions, debates, interviews, and more.
Three years after the start of the Arab uprisings, the challenges faced by digital activists and bloggers in the Middle East and North Africa have shifted substantially. While in some countries the Internet and speech rights are considerably more free, others face continued and significant surveillance, censorship, and significant threats of violence or imprisonment. Uncertainty about the future and political polarization have made attempted transitions to democracy difficult and often times painful, especially for those of us, netizens, who supported and helped drive it.
Uncertainty about the role of netizens themselves in a post- “Arab Spring” MENA has for some given way to frustration and uncertainty about what to do next. Others fear a digital counter-revolution at a time when organized non-state actors and governments are developing sophisticated surveillance tactics, sometimes working hand-in-hand with private companies. Rights-restrictive legislation is also on the rise. Laws built to limit free speech online are mushrooming across the region, exposing netizens to threats of prosecution and imprisonment.
The Heinrich Böll-Global Voices Arab Bloggers Meetings have over the past six years (Beirut 2008 & 2009, Tunis 2011) brought together influential voices from across the region, playing an important role in helping digital activists build a network of solidarity with each other prior to the Arab uprisings. This network helped has helped us all to share activist strategies and tactics, learn from each other, and work together.
We believe there’s a need, today more than ever, for a meeting of this kind. While there have been other meetings on digital security and training in the past three years, they have been often driven by external agendas, focused on narrow themes, meant for a specific group of activists or targeting sub-regional publics. The Arab Bloggers Conferences have distinguished themselves by being spaces created primarily by local activists and for local activists and using a participatory model of peer learning.
We want the meeting to be a place for MENA activists to share ideas about what’s working and not working in changed political environments, to come up with new, joint projects, to invigorate their efforts with new ideas, and to meet and learn together with the next generation of digital activists.