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World Press Freedom Day Pertains to Bloggers Too

LatinaLista — Every once in a while, I get a question from my peers that challenges me to define myself in today’s changing media world.

The question usually goes like this: “Do you consider yourself a journalist or a blogger?”

When I first began blogging, I used to answer that I was a journalist who blogged. Over the last three years, I’ve come to see blogging as an extension of my journalism career and not just as a hobby on the side.

Through both outlets, I deliver news and commentary that, I hope, inform my readers. I think this is true of most “news-commenting” blogs today.

It goes without saying that blogs have empowered the “common person” in greater numbers and more quickly than what newspapers could ever have claimed.

In fact, I’ve just come back from spending two weeks in Europe where I attended conferences that dealt with the future of the newspaper/print industry. While trying to predict what the future held for the industry, it was agreed that newspapers will come to see, if they haven’t already, that citizen journalists will be considered another news source like Reuters or AP.

Bloggers, to a certain extent, are definitely considered to be part of that citizen journalist circle.

That is why today’s World Press Freedom Day is as much for bloggers as it is for journalists.

It is not news that journalists are under siege. With rising government corruption and suppression of a free media and escalating violence due to drug cartel activity, journalists who expose the lies and trace the lines of accountability for the corruption and violence are marked for death or retaliation.

According to the World Association of Newspapers, a total of 110 journalists were killed last year around the world.

(Source: WAN)

Others are being jailed.

Bloggers are also suffering from trying to fulfill a natural mandate that obligates any moral person to expose corruption and injustice.

From Iran and Malaysia to Egypt and even the United States, bloggers are suffering the same consequences as their journalist cousins.

The most widely known case of an American blogger being jailed is the case of Josh Wolf. Wolf is a video blogger, freelance journalist and filmmaker who was jailed by a Federal district court on August 1, 2006 for refusing to turn over a collection of videotapes he recorded during a July 2005 demonstration in San Francisco, California. He served 226 days in prison at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, California, longer than any journalist in U.S. history has served for protecting source materials. With permission from the prosecution, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered Wolf’s release on April 3, 2007. (Source: Wikipedia)

Longest-jailed American journalist Josh Wolf

On Josh’s web site, he writes about whether or not bloggers should be considered journalists. Needless to say, he has had time to develop a unique perspective on this subject.

In an ironic twist, today’s World Press Freedom Day falls just a couple of days after another example of a rising trend in American society among government and law enforcement officials’ disdain of the media.

By now, we’ve all heard how Los Angeles police used force against journalists during this week’s immigration rallies.

Journalists being hit by Los Angeles police
(Source: CBS PublicEye)

Now, the CBS network is reporting that the Los Angeles police beat the journalists because they couldn’t tell the difference between citizen journalists.

According to the story:

Now comes news that journalists were beaten by police at the Los Angeles immigration protests – and part of the reason may be that police couldn’t distinguish between traditional journalists and citizen journalists who were also there as activists. Via Lost Remote, here’s some pretty amazing video of journalists, both traditional and self-styled, fleeing baton-wielding officers, some of whom struck those holding video cameras.

In reading the full text of the story, it’s clear that there may have to be some future guidelines set for citizen journalists.

Yet, in the meantime, it should be recognized that there is no discrimination between the efforts and risks that both kinds of journalists are willing to endure to deliver the truth and that both are doing a service for society in keeping check on those who feel they are above the law.

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