Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Bloggers join fight against terror

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 19, 2006

Bloggers join fight against terror
Technology, namely Internet, came to the rescue of Mumbaikars as cowardice reared its ugly head once again
Friday, July 14, 2006

Shashwat Chaturvedi

MUMBAI: The news reporter at one of the umpteen channels was singing paeans to the ‘never-say-die spirit’ of Mumbai, the camera pans to the right and shows a bunch of youngsters handing water-filled plastic cups to weary travelers trudging their way back home.

The scene was similar to the one that had occurred some 13 years ago, when the serial blasts had happened. Only this time, it was more coordinated and more vicious, so people could hardly understand what was happening, till it actually happened.

The few news channels did not refrain from showing grisly scenes of mangled bodies and limbs strewn on the railway tracks. Meanwhile, the phone lines had gone dead, supposedly clogged due to the heavy traffic. There was panic everywhere and no real concrete information available, for instance, one channel was pegging the number of dead at 189, while the other was talking about 130. Everything was going according to Murphy’s Law. Mumbai was again terror-stricken and under attack.

Blogging arrives

At that very moment, a few conscientious bloggers were sitting in front of their computers, uploading posts after posts on their blogs, talking about personal experiences, real life scenarios, help line numbers, just about anything.

Blogging seems to have finally arrived in Mumbai.

It isn’t the first time that blogs were being used to disseminate information, it had happened a year or so ago when the tsunami had hit the eastern coast of India, or when the rain gods were conspiring to drown Mumbai on 26th July last year, or at the time of the earthquake in J&K and Pakistan.

But, it was for the first time a concerted effort was being made to provide relief, one can say that these disaster-relief blogs were finally coming of age. Take the instance of one such blog, mumbaihelp.blogspot.com, had posts from worried relatives who were unable to get through to their near and dear ones, they left the phone numbers of the person in Mumbai, a few voluntary individuals would try and reach them and pass on the message.

Says, Peter Griffen, the founder of the group, “We were clocking close to 28,000 page views a day, not much compared to the mass media channels, like the print or electronic media. Yet, these visitors were people that were not getting any information from any other source and had come to our blog for assistance or for help.” Indeed in a jumble of information, blogs were providing an individual approach.

Meanwhile, another blog mumbai.metblogs.com had a battery of contributors writing on different issues, it also had quite many images on these posts. There was also a first person account of the bomb blast. Another blog, varnam.org/blog/, also carried similar information, though it was more skewed towards individualistic views.

Spirit of collaboration

There was a spirit of collaboration among these blogs; they were linking other blogs, thus creating a virtual network. In fact, indiauncut.blogspot.com, displayed a list of whole lot of blogs on the same subject. There were quite a few interesting posts on the issue on this blog as well.

It might seem like these blogs were a group effort, but there were a lot of individuals who had set out on their own and were publishing posts after posts at breakneck speeds. Take the instance of Gaurav Sabnis on gauravsabnis.blogspot.com, had an update at regular interval, mainly derived from television channel and other sources.

Coming back to Griffin (Mumbai Help blog), a freelance journalist by vocation has spent all his waking hours in front of the computer for the past two days. He and his team have also made a list of all people who perished or were injured in the attack. The site also has a Wiki, a space where anybody can post their views and could be edited by others.

Information uncensored

Worldwide, blogs have become a source of uncensored information. Though often taken with a pinch of salt, these bloggers or citizen journalists as they are now called, are providing news and views in a way that could never have been imagined. For instance, the blog of a youngster in Baghdad gave true picture of the ground situation, when the Americans were conducting air raids to oust Saddam. Or for that matter innumerable blogs provided valuable assistance to victims of the tornado Katrina, when it wreaked New Orleans and other U.S. states.

The next generation

Back home, it was in 1993 (the year of the first serial blasts in Mumbai), when technology had emerged as savior during the Latur earthquake. Amateur Ham radio operators had set up a network in these far-flung areas to provide relief. Ham radios were working during the current crisis as well and Griffin is trying to figure out a way in which Ham radios and blogs could come together. He hopes to do it next time round.

So, while the news channel continue to cover the event in a manner that has raised much debate. All are emphatic in their praise for the work done by these numerous blogs in times of crisis. And as the reach of the Internet spreads far and wide in India, so would blogging, be it times of catastrophes or calm.

© CyberMedia News


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