RFE/RL Senior Correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari
served as online moderator on a discussion held in Washington, D.C. regarding the state of new media in Iran and the Iranian blogosphere.
The discussion, "Iran’s Blogosphere and Grassroots Voices
," [watch the event
] was presented by the Broadcasting Board of Governors
and the George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication
. Among the panelists were Azar Nafisi
(author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran") Executive Director of Global Voices Ivan Sigal
, Executive Editor of VOA Persian News Network
Hida Fouladvand, and Mohamed Abdel Dayem
, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Finally, those voices and those images that have been forced underground for so many years have burst and blossomed on the Internet and on television screens.
During the discussion, Esfandiari highlighted various blogs websites written by Iranians, including the blog of an Iranian former vice president who writes from prison
and the website of Kouhyar Goudarzi
, who is reportedly facing the death penalty.
Bloggers have also been calling on each other to write about Iranians behind bars who don’t receive media attention in Iran or internationally.
"This just shows how bloggers are using this new media," Esfandiari said. "They are publicizing the cases of prisoners that nobody knows about…It’s very powerful."
Nafisi, the keynote speaker, said online journalism has flourished in the past year despite the government’s attempt to stop news from spreading.
"Finally, those voices and those images that have been forced underground for so many years have burst and blossomed on the Internet and on television screens," she said.
The presentation featured a series of political cartoons by Nikahang Kowsar
, a popular Iranian cartoonist who went to jail for his depiction of "Professor Crocodile" that criticized a prominent Islamic cleric. He said many Iranian journalists have turned into citizen journalists in exile. "We know that we’ll be crucified in the future, but we love it," he said.
Esfandiari also pointed to an article in Global Voices
by Hamid Tehrani, who said the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has helped "immortalize" the movement for younger generations. "However, the cornerstone of this movement is not technology – it’s the people," writes Tehrani.
Nafisi told the audience not to feel sorry for the people of Iran, but rather join with them in the spread of information.
"They have taken responsibility for their lives and they have refused to be victims. What you need to do is to support their voices and to add your voice to them and to communicate to them."-- Ladan Nekoomaram