Citizen media and the Tbilisi protests

We’ve heard a lot about the use of social networking sites and services such as Twitter and Facebook by political activists in the past week, but opposition protests in Georgia have also shown that they are valuable tools in the hands of student and professional journalists alike.

As an editor for Global Voices Online, a site which monitors and aggregates social media and blogs, had it not been for an online project to report on the protests, as well as the presence of fellow Frontline Club bloggers, things would have been very different indeed.

Despite lagging behind Armenia and Azerbaijan in terms of the quality and quantity of blogs, the work of the GIPA Journalism School in Tbilisi, as well as that of Matthew Collin and Guy Degen, set new standards for the use of citizen media in the region during times of political upheaval.

In contrast, the use of blogs, forums and online video sharing sites in Armenia during last year’s presidential election might have countered government-controlled media, but was just as tainted by misinformation and propaganda. They also pretty much regurgitated or mirrored partisan press reports anyway.

However, the past two days in Tbilisi,has illustrated how the media can be strengthened by such tools in the hands of the right people. Although the international media did cover the protests, it was the GIPA Journalism School blog that was updating readers more frequently online.

In particular, special mention has to be made of Frontline Club blogger Guy Degen who really showed how much power just one man with a mobile phone can wield covering protests live. Using Twitter, Utter, Qik and 12 Seconds, his work was unprecedented in the South Caucasus.

Read the rest of the post on Onnik Krikorian’s blog.