Handbook for Bloggers & CyberDissidents

RSF (Reporters san Frontiers – Reporters without Borders), a French press freedom of rights group – have produced a book (online, PDF format) that provides basic definitions and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get around censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation – and it’s sponsored by the French foreign ministry! (Can’t see Alexander Downer sponsoring this type of publication!)

"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest," RSF said.

I’ve just quickly glanced through the contents and was particularly engaged by the chapter on ethics by Dan Gillmor "What ethics should bloggers have?".

"Not all bloggers do journalism. Most do not. But when they do, they should be ethical."

Actually, I believe ethical writing and publishing should be an inherent part of most weblogs.

"All ethics codes are created for one essential purpose: to instill trust. If a reader…cannot trust the report, there is usually little reason to bother in the first place. The exception, of course, is looking at material that is known to be unethical, as much for instructional purposes – we can learn a great deal from watching unethical people’s behavior – as to gain true knowledge.

There are pillars of good journalism: thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, transparency and independence. "

These pillars are simply explained and a valuable reminder to all those who publish their thoughts and opinions. Ethical writing and publishing has been a key issue when guiding my students to develop their own voice on their weblogs – I will certainly add this chapter from Dan to their research.

It also includes some case studies and personal accounts from bloggers in countries where internet censorship is an issue. I haven’t had a chance to read these yet…perhaps sometime over the weekend….