Two sites were brought to my attention recently, both having similar missions in mind: a Jordanian bloggers association and a Jordanian bloggers union. Both are hosted on Maktoob blogs, and looking through them briefly I read their respective charters. The idea is fairly unique as you don’t see too many blogging associations or unions in a country-context on the blogosphere very often, except in the Arab world. Perhaps its our love of unionizing? In any case these two sites, which sprung up around the same time, struck me as fairly interesting.
First, let me state that I have respect for any initiative that aims to bring bloggers of a certain group together if there is a specific purpose in mind. If it is merely to retain identity, culture or religion in an ever-increasing circle, then that’s another story.
For instance, when looking at the union’s charter, they start with an outline of their purpose or goals, which I generally agree with. However, they follow this up with rules if a blogger becomes a member of their union.
Some of the rules include the prohibition of writing anything insulting the monotheist religions, prophets or their companions, as well as writing nothing that contradicts Jordanian tradition, or insulting Jordanian leadership, Jordanian security and the leadership of any Arab nation. A member who breaks any of these rules will be kicked out of the union without any prior warning. The union also goes on to state that its future ambitions include issuing membership cards along the lines of those given to journalists from the Jordan Press Association, as well as having a physical office. Interesting, no?
As for the association, they have a few particularly unique conditions as well. While offenses against any of the rules or fellow members will result in warnings, an investigatory committee will be formed to, well, investigate these matters and determine if any offense has been committed.
This maybe just me, but I get the sense that these initiatives might be led by a crowd that is a bit older than the average early-20-something age in Jordan, and indeed the world. If this isn’t the case then that would be a bit unfortunate.
The Internet and particularly the blogosphere seems, until now, to be an arena in Jordan where free speech has, and can continue to, thrive. Especially in contrast to the outlets available in the mainstream. And what is beautiful about the Internet and the blogosphere is in fact the lack of regulation; it is, in my opinion, the single most significant reason as to why it has thrived and will continue to do so if there are no rules, no censorship, no regulations, no external interferences.
Here we have what looks like the emergance of user-driven intiatives that want to internally regulate their respective spheres. Why? If the purpose is to bring bloggers together, exchange knowledge, have meetups, represent a national identity, partake in community action, then aggregators have the power to do that without interfering to place rules on members with regards to who they are able to criticize, what they are supposed to represent, what they can and cannot say. Placing such restrictions seems a bit ludicrious to me. If the blogosphere is the one arena left untouched by the government, why should the citizens come in and say, you know what, we need to regulate this ourselves; put our own rules. It does not make sense to me.
Like I mentioned earlier, I do appreciate initiatives with the purpose of bringing people together for an actual purpose. But to create a union or association, with membership, rules, regulations, investigatory committees; doesn’t this seem self-defeating? Doesn’t this feel like a divergence from the identity of the Internet and into the realms of traditional norms in Jordan that we are struggling to get away from? Jordan Press Association anyone?
If they are formed for the sake of preserving an identity, then I would have to ask what is the Jordanian identity or any national identity for that matter? Those who come from certain towns, who speak one language, who praise and represent one aspect of our culture deemed to be the dominant one? Jordan is a spectrum of colors representing different languages, religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, histories, cultures, etc. Who defines what?
These initiatives can be a slippery slope and I’m not sure where they’ll go. I wouldn’t be surprised if people across the ideological spectrum would perceive them to be “mukhabarat-led” initiatives, in an attempt to regulate the blogosphere in a clever, clandestine and internally-directed manner. It is one of the obvious conclusions that a young Jordanian would draw.
At the end of the day, this is all just my two piasters on the matter and I’m sure you all have yours. However, I do feel that when it comes to the blogosphere and the Internet in general, the word “rules” or “regulations” is the last thing that is needed. And if such words are presented to us under terms such as “association” or “union” then caution needs to be paid. That being said, I am not suggesting that these two particular initiatives mentioned in this post have any sinister intents in mind. But like I said, both the founders, followers and observers of such initiatives need to be careful when it comes to imposing rules on anyone, especially bloggers.