Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stop looking at your belly button!

I read a wonderful post today. One that brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't meant to make people cry, I don't think, but to get them to react and I hope it served its purpose. The post was written by the wonderful Heather at Note from Lapland and it relates to the revolution taking place in Egypt and how a lot of people are just not talking about it. I started writing a comment but it started going on and on and I realized that I probably should write my own post.

It started with Tunisia. They call it the Jasmin Revolution, but the media here are calling it 'civil unrest'. First off, please, people from the media, call it what it is. It's a revolution. It started mid December and got stronger and stronger through January. When thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life unite and take to the streets to get rid of a corrupt and dictatorial government, it is a Revolution not just civil unrest. The official number of people that gave their lives in the name of what you call  'civil unrest' is 78, although the UN estimates it at more than 100. Most of them were killed by the bullets of the guns fired by the police. They have succeeded in getting rid of their corrupt president Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years. This particular revolution was not covered half as much in English speaking countries as it was in France. There are a lot of people of Tunisian descent in France, including a few of my friends. Tunisia was a French colony and France still has a lot of links with Tunisia hence the enhanced coverage. I have seen friends updates on Facebook, cheering on their 'brothers and sisters' over there. A lot of them have family there and a lot of them visit them on a regular basis. As a sign of solidarity, a lot of people have added a ribbon on their Facebook pictures, the Tunisian flag. Social media sites like Facebook and|Twitter have somewhat helped in organizing that revolution. Their fight still goes on...

It has now moved onto Yemen, Libya and Egypt. 74 people have died yesterday alone in the name of Freedom in Egypt. Once again, people from all walks of life, Christians and Muslims have united to try and defeat a corrupt government and get rid of a dictator. This too is a revolution, not just civil unrest. The army is starting to join in with the protesters, just like it did in Tunisia. I don't claim to know much on this, I am no expert on the Middle East and I wasn't watching it as much as Heather was but there is one thing I know. Shutting down the Internet, mobile networks and landlines, creating a virtual communications black out on a so-called democratic country is not acceptable. It is against the most fundamental right of the people of any country, most of all a democratic one, the right to Freedom of Speech. The right without which we, in the blogging community, wouldn't know each other, the right we are using on a daily basis talking about this and that, ranting about this and that. In one of those countries, a post like this or this could have landed me in prison. Take a look at your own posts, which one would have landed you in prison or even worse, dead? In Tunisia, at least 6 bloggers (as per Reporters without borders, a French NGO advocating freedom of the press in the world) have either been arrested or disappeared (some have been subsequently been released). Bloggers like you and me, people just expressing their views, like you and me. There isn't much we can do from here, I can hear some of you say. There is. What we can do is keep talking about it, stop taking it for granted and if we can support organizations like Reporters without borders by donating some money, then do it. There are 112 netizens, as they call them, imprisoned around the world, bloggers like you and me.
Something else I'd like to see, is for the Irish media to stop looking at their own belly buttons as we say in France. In proper English, it would probably be to start looking further than their own noses. Stop putting events like this at the back end of the news as if it was some kind of 'fait divers' or A.O.B. It is not. There are more important things happening in the world than the circus that is Irish Politics, or some murder trial going on here. Yes, there is an election looming, yes, Irish politics have been a massive circus, worthy of any storyline in any soap you can watch. But the Irish media has barely talked about the Tunisian revolution, very little was said in yesterday's news about Egypt. On one particular channel, this was even reported a while after they showed a piece on how the cost of dying in Ireland was going up. This revolution is certainly more important than the cost of a f*****g burial plot in Ireland! Who wants to know that it will cost you more to be buried by the sea than it will cost you inland? Or how many TV cameras from other countries have shown up in front of the Dail today. Or how Bertie Ahern's (the previous Prime Minister that got us in the mess we are now) only regret is not having built a national stadium.

I have often joked with Mr Foodie and other Irish people on how the Irish media are short of announcing the death of a dog that got run over by a car in co. Cork when more important things are going on in the world. I rely completely on the French or UK media to know what is happening in the world, not the Irish one. Because the Irish media is just turned inwards. I know we live on an island and things happening somewhere else might seem far and unimportant, but they are not. This very insular approach to the news is frustrating, and for me, coming from France, when important things are top of the news no matter where they happen, quite infuriating. Maybe it's a lack of resources, maybe it's a lack of interest on the part of the Irish public, I don't know. The Irish media doesn't seem to have any foreign correspondent (apart from the guy that stands in front of the European Parliament and reports on the EU/IMF deal, or the guy they have in Washington that has to resort in making entertainment programs, probably to justify why he is there on a permanent basis). They very rarely use anybody from the outside even to report on events happening around the world. And if you listen to the Irish Media, well, there isn't really much happening in the world worth talking about for more than 5 minutes. Just a revolution or too, and a blatant attempt on the thing they hold so precious, the very cornerstone of their job, Freedom of Speech.

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