Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Opportunity for Citizen Journalism

Erkan Saka, whose English-language blog I feature in the blogroll ("Turkey in the Media") to the right, is leading a group of Bilgi University students in a social media project aimed to collect information garnered by citizen journalists monitoring the June 12 elections. From Hurriyet Daily News:
The website,, is a Turkish version of the Ushahidi website which uses the concept of crowdsourcing via multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the Internet, to provide citizens with a platform to upload their own instant media independently of mainstream networks.

“Our website allows the public to reach [campaign] reports in the easiest way,” media and communications student Metin Özer recently told the Hürriyet Daily News Economic Review.

Regarding recent protests in Taksim Square against plans to increase filters against the Internet, Erkan Saka, an academic at the university's Media and Communication Systems Department, told the Daily News that because no political parties were front and center during the demonstrations, it suggested that citizens were now experiencing a period of real activism and that such anti-censorship movements provided an example of mass collaboration.

“Turkish websites have become a refuge where hate speech or censorship is often protested [as evidenced by the] thousands who gathered in Taksim Square [earlier in May to demand a free Internet],” Saka said, adding that the group had launched the project not simply due to the protest but also because the website could be useful in promoting more productive uses of information technology.

Emphasizing the importance of the website, Özer said the project was a mission to support local journalism. The mainstream media collects its news from the wires, but it takes too long to format the information and post it for the public, he added.

“[The] purpose was to develop a collective mind through social media,” Saka said.
Saka has been active in the mass protests that have taken place throughout Turkey in reaction to Turkey's plans to introduce an Internet filtering and profile system set to launch Aug. 22. The protests in the Taksim Square and other places throughout the country evince the mass protest the government's plans have sparked.

However, what is needed in addition to the "real activism" of which Saka speaks is organization. The CHP has taken an active role in protesting the government's plan as well, and while there are a limited number of NGOs working on Internet freedom issues, in particular Bilgi University professor Yaman Akdeniz's and Bianet, which is challenging Turkey's already restrictive Internet law at the European Court of Human Rights, what is lacking are well-funded, well-organized civil society groups that are able to viably connect the protestors with the state.

No comments: