Political blogging in the Arab world has received a lot of international attention in recent years, leading many observers to hail the Arab blogosphere as a major force and vehicle for change and reform in the region. Although political bloggers are relatively few in numbers, their impact by contrast has been huge; the multiplier effect of the internet means that a blogpost read by just 1000 readers can rapidly reach a worldwide audience. Although most Arab regimes routinely crack down on bloggers as part of the general suppression of freedom of expression, the advancements in internet and communication technologies have allowed bloggers and online activists to amass their own kind of power. The question is how can bloggers become more effective and produce a deeper impact?
To address this issue, the Beirut and Ramallah offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation organized the first Arab Bloggers Meeting in August 2008, which was the first gathering of its kind, bringing together Arab bloggers to exchange experiences. Both offices decided to build on the success of the first meeting, by organizing the Second Arab Bloggers Meeting (nicknamed AB09 by the participants), this time in cooperation with Global Voices Online in Beirut from the 8th till the 12th of December 2009. Over 60 Arab bloggers from 10 Arab countries were invited to attend the intensive training and networking meeting of young bloggers in the region.
The aim of the 5-day closed meeting was to enable face-to-face exchange, and to coach bloggers on how to leave their imprint on the international blogging sphere, make their voices heard, and to organize online and offline campaigns to pressure governments to stop censorship and restricting freedom of expression. It also aimed at encouraging them to champion the political and cultural rights of women and marginalized communities. Finally, the aim of the meeting was to give the bloggers a chance to form solidarity networks.
To download the complete program click here
To read the full report on the Second Arab Blogger’s Meeting please click here.