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Cases of citizen journalism seen after elections

On Friday, June 12, over 25 million Iranians cast their votes in their country’s 10th presidential election. The next morning, the Islamic Republic News Agency announced the results with over 60 percent of the vote going to the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leading opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, immediately warned Iranian citizens of possible election fraud, and his supporters began protesting.

Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Iran for the remainder of June and into July; unfortunately, the international media was not there to capture the protests, having been forcibly exiled from the country or confined to their hotel rooms. Protesters used Facebook to organize gatherings, YouTube to post videos of rallies and of the police brutality that took place, and Twitter to post information related to the election. And it was this use of the Internet and social networking that the Western media reported on, covering videos such as the widely spread and highly graphic video of Neda Soltan being shot and killed, and covering specific Tweets to provide updates on what was occurring on the ground.

We applaud the citizen journalism that blossomed in Iran out of people’s desire to bring to the international stage the aftermath of the country’s supposedly democratic elections. The power of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter is truly realized in situations like these, in which the information is so important and so compelling that it travels across the globe despite a single government’s efforts to shut it down.

Now, two months later, the protests have nearly all ended, and most people have returned home, although some 135 people remain on trial. The result of the election as it was first announced has not changed. The world has seen that the people of Iran are capable of some of the largest and most spirited political protests of this decade.

Perhaps most importantly, we have seen that through modern technologies people will make their voices heard, something we might see again very soon, as neighboring nation Afghanistan held its elections last Wednesday, with a similar media blackout in place.

We hope that if the media blackout in Afghanistan does remain in place after the election, a similar outpouring of citizen journalism is seen, so that the rest of the world can stay informed of the happenings of the country and the results of the election.