Thank goodness we have press freedom here at home…oops, Dennis Whittle points out we don’t. At least not for many aid bloggers, who have to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.Could the CPJ consider an award for those aid bloggers? Alas, it would still have to be anonymous, unlike Ethiopia.
Most aid bloggers are tied to some sort of institution, be it academic, government, non-governmental, or private, and while some might accept their employees blogging general discussion and criticism, few would tolerate direct criticism of the employer’s policy. There are some exceptions – academic and think-tank bloggers work in environments that foster more transparent discussion, and so are more likely to feel comfortable enough blogging under their own name.
The important thing to remember is that this is the reality for all bloggers, not just aid bloggers. How many people who work for the UK Treasury have open, independent blogs which objectively cover Treasury policy? The Fed? Google? Walmart? Employers just don’t like their employees talking about them. Maybe that’s a shame, but then again we’re not really press – most of us aren’t independent, and it’s perfectly rational (if unfortunate) for employers to expect their employees to pubicly conform to the company line. To compare the need for private individuals to protect their careers when diverging from the company line to an authoritarian government’s crack down on the actual press is silly.
Aid Watch often tries to spin the aid critic as the unappreciated minority. I’m an aid critic, and I believe that energy could be better spent making honest, coherent criticism, rather than trying to paint myself as the persecuted underdog.