Al Jazeera yesterday announced a new initiative to promote Internet freedom and support online journalists.
The Al Jazeera Initiative for Internet Freedom was unveiled by Wadah Khanfar, Director-General of the network during a seminar titled “Unplugged - Real Time Media: The Power of Now,” at the Fifth Annual Al Jazeera Forum that officially opens here today.
“Al Jazeera is proud to announce that we will bring our groundbreaking coverage to the widest audience possible, free of charge,” said Khanfar.
“Access to information creates an environment where people are better informed and thereby better able to make decisions that affect their lives.”
The Al Jazeera Initiative for Internet Freedom is broken down into four key areas: free content, protection of online journalists, supporting marginalised communities and training online Journalists
Al Jazeera will provide its content free of charge across a range of digital platforms to allow people around the world access to Al Jazeera content.
Content will be available on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, which are aimed at giving more people access to the network’s Arabic and English news and programming. Additionally, Al Jazeera is launching an application on the iPad and expanding its presence in mobile communications on the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Symbian platforms.
As part of the The Al Jazeera Initiative for Internet Freedom, Khanfar also announced a programme aimed at supporting the rights of online journalists, bloggers, and other individuals who write and report online.
“There are too many cases of bloggers being persecuted for telling the truth or for voicing their opinions,” said Khanfar.
“As part of The Al Jazeera Initiative for Internet Freedom, we will provide the necessary outlet to assist those who face online censorship and other forms of media oppression. It must be the cause of journalists around the world to defend other journalists and bloggers.”
The programme will be part of the network’s Public Liberties and Human Rights Desk and will allow individuals who have faced difficulties to bring their case to the attention of Al Jazeera. The network will run the stories as part of Al Jazeera’s television broadcast.
Also, in line with the network’s mandate of providing a voice for the voiceless, Al Jazeera announced they will begin a project that will equip people in marginalised communities and remote parts of the world with resources to make themselves heard. This includes providing communications tools to allow people to document their own stories. “Media tools are often only accessible by those who have the resources and the skills to access new technology,” said Khanfar.
“By providing these tools to cover news, Al Jazeera will be engaging a new generation of journalists and will allow the world to hear from the voices that have traditionally been marginalised in the media.”
The Al Jazeera Training and Development Center will be launching a programme to equip people with the necessary skills to cover news and to report from their own communities.
The training programme will teach people in marginalised communities how to use new technology and also how to produce high quality reports.
Speakers at the seminar included MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters, Joi Ito of Creative Commons, Robin Sloan of Twitter, William May from the US State Department and Juliana Rotich of Ushahidi on topics ranging from “Harnessing The Power of The Real-Time Web” to “Getting Heard Online”.
Speakers at the two-day Al Jazeera Forum include Iyad Allawi, Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Thabo Mbeki, Former President of South Africa, and Robert Fisk, author and correspondent for The Independent newspaper.
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