From President Obama's speech on the Middle East and North Africa, delivered this morning at the State Department:
We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo " to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with " and listen to " the voices of the people.
In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard " whether it's a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.
Small World News welcomes the US government's commitment to the values of free speech and a free press. As we have witnessed through our work over the last five years, these values are more than abstract ideals; they are concrete goals sought universally by citizens around the world.
But these goals cannot be reached through words alone. As Small World News' Brian Conley and Louis Abelman have written, supporting the aspiration of free expression is a lengthy and complex process:
Over 2010 we engaged in a broad expanse of projects: helping start a daily news program produced by Indian community activists; training Ethiopian journalists in exile to protect themselves online; supporting Rwandans with new media training; training Iraqi civil society organizations and technologists to develop a strategy and implement social media and mapping tools, teaching Afghan journalists to leverage the latest in mobile journalism tools; supporting an international monitoring organization and local humanitarian one to leverage mobile technology and mapping to monitor the Afghan parliamentary election; working with Bahraini human rights activists to develop tools to monitor their parliamentary election; and training Tibetan and Indian activists to leverage video as a tool to promote their work.
Today we hope to utilize the breadth of our work over the last five years to continue creating a space for voices go regularly unheard by the international community. This means centralizing the fragmented locations where dialogue is happening, and making sure those voices are curated and contextualized, as well as translated to English and other languages when necessary. It also means meeting with local contacts, providing training and equipment and infrastructure support as necessary. In a place like Afghanistan it may even involve coordinating with telecommunications companies as we've done previously, or developing methods that better prioritize the most accessible tools, such as voice and mobile platforms particularly in rural and low bandwidth communities.
While the value of free expression is universal, the solution is highly contextual. Each country presents unique challenges and opportunities for reaching our goals.
For instance, in Libya, citizens in eastern cities like Benghazi and Ajdabiya have considerable access to local media, through television and radio. But this media generally takes the form of revolutionary propaganda and opinion slanted in support of the rebellion. The opportunity existed for Alive in Libya to create a free and independent news source for Libyans as well as the international community.
This allowed Libyans access to news about their most pressing concerns not found in revolutionary media. For example, our teams of correspondents on the ground offer information on access to electricity in Ajdabiya...