Blogging is a powerful tool of freedom of expression that has enthused millions of ordinary people. Passive consumers of information have become energetic participants in a new kind of journalism – what US blog pioneer Dan Gillmor calls “grassroots journalism… by the people, for the people” (see chapter on “What ethics should bloggers have?”).
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest. Plenty of bloggers have been hounded or thrown in prison. One of the contributors to this handbook, Arash Sigarchi, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for posting several messages online that criticised the Iranian regime. His story illustrates how some bloggers see what they do as a duty and a necessity, not just a hobby. They feel they are the eyes and ears of thousands of other Internet users.