Monday, June 23, 2008

This is Citizen Journalism

What happened a few days ago in Zanjan should wake us all up. This ‎is not the first time that a public official violates a young woman, nor is this confined to ‎Iran, or limited to a deputy university chancellor or a police superintendent who ‎presented themselves as pious and law-abiding citizens in public while privately ‎engaging in heinous acts. If such behavior began with the poet Hafez, then it has a history ‎of at least six hundred years.‎

The use of publicly unaccepted behavior to expose those in power is not a new even in ‎politics. What is relatively new is that someone filmed an event using a mobile phone and ‎another person posted it on You Tube, making it instantly available around the world. ‎Forty thousand people are recorded to have accessed the site in four hours. What all this ‎means is that a crime committed by a deputy university chancellor appointed by ‎Ahmadinejad’s minister of science, Mr. Zahedi, became a worldwide event in an instant. ‎If someone asked why is Mr. Zahedi or Mr. Ahmadinejad dragged into this, this is my ‎response: It is because these individuals claim to be the pious, of having a pious ‎administration and boast spending money on the missing twelfth Shiite saint, while at the ‎same time belittling and negating the world for being “corrupt”. It is because these people ‎have put themselves at the center of the world and who ever toes their line will be ‎protected by them as if their credentials have been approved by the missing Shiite imam. ‎If someone falls out, then he is announced to be the enemy of the very same saint.‎

Every society wakes up to a tune. Some to the tune of church bells, while others to the ‎calls of the Moazen. Still others wake up to a gentle breeze.‎

But we Iranians, who seem to disregard our ancient history whose grandeur is completely ‎lacking today and whose triumphs have not passed on to our generation, have only a tiny ‎interest in this fatherland and do not care about its past which is occasionally aired to fool ‎the masses. But we cannot continue to pretend to be living in the Stone Age. A mobile ‎phone is not just something that you take out of its box and plug it in and call our home. ‎A mobile phone means a documentary, photos, transmission, dissemination, connection ‎to the rest of the world, etc. And all of this without recourse. If you wish, you can ‎continue to practice your ancient habits and deny modern tools and needs, to issue orders ‎to find “the trouble source”, order to shut down websites, issue fatwas to kill, etc. But ‎these will not resolve your problems or solve things. Yes, issues can be resolved, but not ‎this way.‎

The film on You Tube shows how a university authority who ordered students around at ‎one time, was suddenly trapped and then fell to the mercy of the very same students he ‎was bullying. All of this because of a single mobile phone.‎

Look at the impact of the Internet since it became a national and public tool of the Iranian ‎people since eight years ago. Look at the impact it has had on our social life. One of its ‎changes is that until a few years ago people in power regularly smeared and defamed ‎their opponents using any language they wished. Today, the same, people are scared. ‎Unless of course they are like Keyhan newspaper (state appointed daily) and its followers ‎who have given up on the future.‎

If one counted the number of individuals who in recent years made slanderous ‎accusations in their speeches, interviews, and public talks against others, they are ‎countless. Nobody has bothered to count them. Nobody plans to. But all you have to do is ‎look at the number of cautions that have been recently issued about being slanderous and ‎defamatory with the aim of protecting people’s image and respect, and you will see the ‎power of the mobile phone.‎