Friday, September 17, 2010

Putting genie of modern time back into bottle of old order

You already know that Osman Gunduz, the Head of Azerbaijan Internet Forum has told the media that bloggers should register at the Ministry of Justice if they want to be regarded as journalists.

I contacted Mr. Miklos Haraszti, a revered human rights defender, former OSCE Media Watchdog and he was kind enough to lend his opinion on the issue. With a permission from him, I post his response here:
Dear Ali: here is my reply to Mr Gunduz' line of logic. You can post my letter of course.

His logic is attempting to put the genie of modern time back into the bottle of the old order.

He forgets that to be a journalist has two meanings in the modern world. Mr Gunduz is speaking about the old, bureaucratic and unionist -- profsoyuznik -- definition: journalists are those who are registered, and are having a job in one of the media outlets, etc.

But there is another, functional (if you wish, social) meaning of being a journalist. In this social, or functional sense, journalists are those who convey socially relevant information to the public.

In the old days, the two meanings were the same -- only those could be journalists who worked as listed, registered, and paid employees. Through their jobs, they could be journalists also in the second, social or functional sense.

But today, the situation has changed radically. Today, regardless of age, profession, education, or location, absolutely any and every person can be a journalist in the functional, social sense. If you decide to post my letter in your blog, you made Miklos Haraszti a media author with one push of a button, and at the same time you made Ali S Novruzov a journalist. But we both can decide to do something else in the next minute, or even during our joint "publishing" activity. And afterwards we can go back again to be a journalist -- in the social sense --, this time in a totally different digital network.

Mr Gunduz does not want to acknowledge the modern separation of the functional journalist from the bureaucratic journalist. He is not ready to see the impact that digital technologies are making -- like computers, smartphones, and total interconnectivity. The old utopia of Karl Marx today is a reality. Every hunter or fisherman can be tomorrow -- or even while hunting or fishing -- a literary critic...

A blogger is a citizen who decided to engage in journalism in the social sense, but not in the bureaucratic. He or she wants to have a lively conversation with fellow citizens online, without becoming a journalist in the old profsoyuznik sense. Mr Gunduz should honor the decision of the citizens, and not restrict the enjoyment of the capacities provided by our modern, open societies. Unless he is is busy to make our societies pre-modern and closed -- which I am sure is not the case. I hope he will re-evaluate his stance.

By the way, and to be sure, the Council of Europe and OSCE standards hold registration of online outlets as a repressive policy, directed against freedom of speech.

With my friendly regards both to you and to Mr Gunduz

Miklos Haraszti

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