I’ve been doing journalism for decades, several of them. I covered my first two or three wars with the keys of a battered portable typewriter.
I not only understand change, I covet the ability to get our words out instantly and to a world-wide audience that most journalists never dreamed of reaching a few years ago.
This morning, I saw something in the news that hammered home how deeply cyber communications have permeated our cells.
For centuries, governments and ruling powers have tried to control how much their citizens knew about the news of the day, especially during battles, coups d’état, revolutions, uprisings and episodes of political upheaval. I have watched this, some times far too closely, in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East and twice in Africa.
The first rule was always to seize and close the newspapers, then silence the radio stations and, in later years, stifle the television broadcasts. This was always pretty easy because those with the guns and machetes knew where the offices were.
Today, gagging dissemination of news and comment is far more complex.
Just read the following two sentences from an Associated Press dispatch from Tehran on crowds taking to the streets protesting yesterday’s vote and claiming that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had stolen the presidential election.
Deep into the AP story the reporter wrote:
“Authorities pushed back with ominous measures apparently seeking to undercut liberal voices: jamming text messages, blocking pro-Mousavi Web sites and Facebook and cutting off mobile phones in Tehran.
“With the Internet and mobile texting down, some Iranians turned to Twitter to voice their views.”
The government made getting the word out more difficult, but they failed to stop it. Cyberspace over Iran is very much alive with what people think.