Yesterday I drove for thee hours to the Netherlands (to cover 130km, traffic jams like you wouldn't believe it), in order to attend a lecture and debate about journalism and its relation to digital media, weblogs etc. The evening was organised by the NVJ (Dutch Journalists Society) and the Dick Scherpenzeel stichting, by the way.
Guest of honour was Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi weblogger who sort of got dragged into covering the Iraq war on his blog Raed in the Middle. Originally, his blog, like so many others, was meant as a way to allow some of his friends and family to keep track of his daily life. In the run-up to the war, his blog (and that of his friend Salam Pax) was 'discovered' by the outside world and many people started going there to try to get a picture from inside Iraq. Today, he still maintains his blog, but he warned the audience: he does not speak for the Iraqi people, just for himself. People tend to forget this.
Most notably, Raed is a secular, educated person who speaks and reads English. As he himself pointed out, most Iraqi's aren't like that. But he said he is qualified to write about what they think, because he has traveled the country extensively and talked to many people during his work for the NGO 'Emaar' (reconstruction).
Personally he was against the war. In his view, freedom, liberty and even the 'American Way of Life' are nice things to have, and most Iraqi's would want them, but he is opposed to 'American Foreign Policy'. In his view, the Americans have made mistake after mistake in Iraq, thus culturally alienating and humiliating many Iraqi's. He would have liked for regime change etcetera to have come about from the inside.
Other things I managed to remember from his talk: he sees this war as a religious thing, American christian fundamentalists versus islamic ones, as it were. He thinks it is no coincidence that pictures like these are appearing in U.S. media:
It might have been his English, or my interpretation of it, but he seemed to be under the impression that in general the U.S. media were overwhelmingly in favour of the war and the Bush administration. He also complained about new laws in Iraq that banned newspapers if they weren't pro-U.S. enough.
As to his relation with traditional media: he sees himself as sometimes reporting things directly that he has witnessed, other times clarifying or correcting news about things he has more background on than the journalists writing the stories.
Although I disagree with certain of his interpretations on his weblog, I must say he was quite an interesting and likable fellow, who is clearly using weblogs as a tool for reporting, criticizing and putting out his version of events. Is it journalism, is it not? Some people agree, some disagree, but more on that in my next post...