Citizen Journalist Uses IPad to tell the story of massacre in Dogo Nawha

A man in Nigeria uses his iPad to cover a story most international media got wrong

In a blog post the British Broadcasting Company’s General Director Mark Thompson spoke out against what he called

increased levels of intimidation,”

against BBC staff and even family members as part of a crack down on the flow of information emanating from this notoriously closed regime. He went on to explain that last week a sibling of a BBC staff member in Iran was arrested. She was taken to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, a sort of caged camp for all Iran deems as dissidents located in Tehran. Several political prisoners, religious prisoners and anyone Iran deems as dangerous to the regime are housed in the appalling Iranian prison.

Thompson went on to explain that other relatives of of BBC staff in Iran have been detained, as well as a general pattern of “bullying and harassment,” against BBC including jamming of international television stations such as the BBC Persia TV and hacking Facebook and e-mail accounts.

Thompson said Iran’s media crackdown is “behaviour [sic] that all people who believe in free and independent media should deeply be concerned about.”

Stopping international media is a favorite tactic of totalitarian regimes. The formula is precise and strictly followed:

  • Totalitarian abolishes all independent media
  • Totalitarian establishes state media
  • Totalitarian uses state media to disseminate information

But how to answer such a wide sweeping attack on independent media? One way is to think small! Instead of having a large international media presence behind a closed regime, why not have a lot of individuals reporting on their life behind the curtain?

This happened in March of 2010 in the northern Nigerian rural village of Dogo Nahawa. During that time machete-wielding, and gun-toting extremists swept through a small rural village of Dogo Nahawa and two other communities killing mostly Christians. More than 500 people were killed. The carnage ceased when the state sent in troops but not before women and children were slaughtered.
Residents say the government tried to cover up the massacre by building a mass grave. One citizen wouldn’t stand for that and began contacting international media, through the Internet and other means talking about what happened. The result was an international outcry.

Social media has opened the door to allow ordinary citizens to report on the nefarious actions of their governments. But as we see in China and Iran, the state still controls Internet networks and can shut down Twitter or Facebook, Internet portals and e-mail accounts whenever it wants.

So how do citizens get around their government’s attempts to thwart their communication to the outside world? This article on Mashable.com has some nifty ways to circumvent government’s media shutdowns, including:

  • Use of third-party apps such as HootSuite, Tweet Deck, Blackberry for Twitter. If you’re already have these accounts on a smartphone you could Tweet directly through their servers and not through the state’s.
  • Using computer proxy sites is very popular. Such sites as Proxy-Service.de allow users to access the Internet when their country’s Internet is blocked or out. Proxy servers hide your IP address making your communications anonymous so to speak and allow to circumvent regional restrictions on Internet use. Read more here.
  • You can also get around restrictions with downloaded software like Tor that allows you to hide the data transmitted from your machine. It’s free and many people have used it. Though not quite sure how it works if the entire country’s Internet is shut down.

Note none of these will work if the Internet is completely shut down as it was done in January 2012 in Egypt. But mobile technologies may serve as an alternative provided that the government doesn’t shut down cell phone service.

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