Next week, bloggers, techies, activists and entrepreneurs from throughout the Middle East and North Africa will come together in Amman, Jordan for the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting, led by Global Voices and Heinrich Böll and hosted by Amman-based media platform, 7iber.com. We are thrilled to be organizing this event once again!
Over the course of three closed-workshop days, we will discuss and learn about MENA region community-based projects that are advancing civic engagement online, and work together to build collaborative knowledge around advocacy, digital security, and policy issues.
We'll be lucky to have friends and colleagues with us from many leading advocacy groups and platforms — SMEX, Al-Monitor, EFF, Tactical Technology Collective, and Free Press Unlimited, just to name a few. On our final day, we will discuss current political trends and challenges in a live, public forum with leading activists and thinkers from the region and around the world. All this and much more information about the meeting can be found on the AB14 website, in both English and Arabic.
As many of our readers know, the Arab Bloggers meeting has served as a critical space and platform for our broader community since its first iteration in Beirut in 2008. The meeting brought together influential voices from across the region, playing an important role in helping digital activists build a network of solidarity with each other prior to the Arab uprisings.
Today, three years after the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia, the challenges faced by digital activists and bloggers in the Middle East and North Africa have shifted substantially. While in some countries the Internet and speech rights are considerably more free, others face continued and significant surveillance, censorship, and significant threats of violence or imprisonment. Uncertainty about the future and political polarization have made attempted transitions to democracy difficult and often times painful, especially for those of us, netizens, who supported and helped drive it.
There are many questions about the role of netizens themselves in a post- “Arab Spring” MENA — these have given way to frustration and uncertainty about what to do next. We believe there’s a need, today more than ever, for a meeting of this kind.
We wish we could invite all of our friends to join us next week, but limitations on space and funding force us to keep the meeting small — this also has the advantage of giving us plenty of time and space for one-on-one conversations and work in small groups. The good news is that meeting facilitators will do everything they can to make the meeting readable, watchable, and tweetable for friends and followers who aren't with us in Amman!