This is the second of two posts reporting on a Citizen Media and Free Culture [pt] workshop that took place at the National Journalists Union in Maputo, Mozambique in July 2012 as a volunteer project implemented by the author of this post, Sara Moreira, and Júlio do Carmo Gomes.
The idea that writing down a thought helps one think better and deeper, and that sharing it with others, as bloggers do, often forces one to examine their thoughts more critically and honestly. Rising Voices’ introductory guide to citizen media describes some of the benefits from blogging in this way, and the motto served as a starting point for the 3-day workshop's practical sessions.
The open nature of blogging platforms, which allows broader outreach to those who share the same interests – in contrast to more closed platforms as Facebook, which can often allow access to content only to “friends” – was also considered as an advantage in helping to choose blogging as a practical tool for the workshop.
The maintenance and nurturing of a good blog requires a strong will to feed it and a commitment to quality, which were some of the points emphasized during the workshop. A set of tools and tips from RV's Blogging Guide (partly translated and adapted for this workshop) was compiled for the participants, as well as Tactical Tech's checklist for effective blogging.
The collective mapping exercise allowed for working groups to identify and explore social issues for possible subjects of the collective blogs. Why collective? It is a way to reinforce, via practical work, the importance of the collection of diverse critical and independent perspectives about the reality and the world. And as a consequence of this horizontal sharing of information, there are many more possibilities that arise because of this collective decision-making.
Among the issues addressed in the blogs that were created ranged from gender issues (the Swiluva blog, a word that means “flowers” in the local xichangana language), languages Cultura Pela Língua (Culture by Language), which intends to promote artistic creations and cultural demonstrations in the dozens of languages in Mozambique), security issues (Policiando a Polícia, (Policing the Police) in the search of solution against police repression in Mozambique, transportation A Realidade dos Chapas, (The Reality of Chapas) [local buses], intended to report on the daily life of transportation, exposing the precarious conditions under which Mozambicans travel), and Trazparencia (Transparency), with the aim to analyze the country's governance and economic development.
The blogs created in the practical sessions are no longer active, but the creation process that was followed served as an introductory experience for other activities to come. The platform used was WordPress, and basic technical issues, such as the creation of hyperlinks, meta-information, posts, tags, categories, comments, identities, etc, ended up taking longer than expected in the time available for the workshops.
Specific content examples were suggested and illustrated for each blog, such as types of interviews, guest authors, external referrals, humour situations, video-reports, and photo-of-the-day.
Two Months Later
Almost two months have passed since the completion of the Free Culture and Citizen Media Workshop, and as a result, new blogs have blossomed in Mozambique's online panorama.
From one of the creators of the extinct Cultura Pela Língua blog, @Verdade's newspaper Culture Editor, Inocêncio Albino, comes up with the blog Espólio, “a parallel program of journalism practice” whose aim is to publish articles on Arts and Culture, inviting communication students, ordinary citizens, journalists, and artists who want to promote their creations to submit their contributions.
On the blog Meu Ângulo (My Angle) [pt], Rui Lamarques (@LamarquesRui) Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, shares some of his essays, short stories, denouncements, “realizations and frustrations”:
Não se trata (…) de um lugar onde encontrarão tratados científicos ou verdades que se pretendem absolutas. Hão-de encontrar, quando vierem, um cidadão comum. Um cidadão que, muitas vezes, andas apinhados nos chapas deste país, um cidadão que frequenta os mercados deste país, um cidadão que almoça em barracas e faz compras nos Xipamanines da vida. Em suma: um autêntico moçambicano.
Francisco Chuquela (@chuquela), sub-editor of the newspaper's website, created Complexo Académico (Academic Complex) focusing on citizenship, academics, and youth related-subjects. Chuquela makes a call for other contributions from either Mozambique or abroad, so that the blog can:
I – Despertar no cidadão a consciência da forma como o país é dirigido e como devia ser dirigido por aqueles que são confiados o poder de liderança;
II – Fazer do cidadão uma entidade que tudo faz para estar antenada sobre os recursos de que o país dispõe e arde para encontrar formas de tirar proveito dos mesmos; E
III – Conscientizar o cidadão sobre a potencialidade dos meios e formas culturais, particularmente a arte, para expressão e defesa das sua idéias e visões no referente à vida no país, sobretudo à realidade que o circunda.
I – Awaken citizens’ awareness on how the country is governed and how it should be governed by those who are entrusted with the power of leadership;
II – Turn citizens into entities that will do anything to monitor the resources of the country, which burns to find ways to make profit out of them; And to
III – Raise awareness among citizens about the potential of cultural means and ways, particularly the arts, and for the expression and defense of one's ideas and visions regarding life in the country, above all about each person's surrounding reality.
There is also David Nhassengo's (@pentchicodc) blog Pentchico Dmbuza Capetine, whose weekly chronicle Estado de Graça (State of Grace) and its focus on music and is well worth an upgrade to a podcast. It has already attracted a lot attention through his followers on Facebook.
In the closing session, all participants were invited to reflect on what would be taken from the workshop — “an incentive for us all”, said Orlando, “I only hope there will be continuity (…) I want to film more and take more photos”.
The wealth of interests, backgrounds, opinions, and knowledge present in a very diverse group did not allow enough time for all the planned subjects to be addressed as deeply as desired, even though new tools were learned to “utilize communication in a different way”, said Coutinho. He added, “it is important to motivate others to become citizen reporters.” Hermínio finalized his reflections by stating: “learning with others is positive and it is important that we pass on the information.”
Others spoke about the importance of describing their own reality, such as Danúbio, and about the “rise of a critical spirit,” and Da Costa for whom “it is possible to do what journalists cannot or do not want to do, through blogs and Facebook.” Yolanda added:
A oficina mostrou-me a importância de expressarmo-nos mais como jornalistas com liberdade.
Com as oficinas percebi a importância de usar as redes sociais para expôr o que nos preocupa, os problemas sociais e como um instrumento crítico e não só para entretenimento e coisas banais.
Eugénio Bapiro said:
Despertamos para o real impacto das redes sociais e a importância que têm para divulgar aquilo que não vem na média oficial. Percebi que através dos blog e Facebook pode vir a tona um assunto que parecia não ser relevante. Agora é preciso explorar mais a realidade moçambicana em que poucas pessoas têm acesso às ferramentas. Uma coisa é a grande cidade, outra coisa é a vida real.
Inocêncio Albino recalled the need to create a structure that allows some protection for citizen-reporters, and added that “there is fear of making political stands and [assume] certain current affairs”:
É preciso ultrapassar o mistério do medo. Num país democrático deve haver liberdade de expressão.
Finally, Francisco Chuquela considered that despite the limited time of the workshop, he would have wanted to see other subjects addressed:
Teríamos de falar mais sobre o que é a cultura livre. É preciso quebrar o medo, acabar com a ideia de que “ser governado é ser explorado”. O povo moçambicano é mamparra, está habituado a sofrer no silêncio. Temos de mudar isso.