BBC contest backs Jordan's blogging hype

The BBC NewsMaker competition - where young Jordanians vie for the opportunity to broadcast to BBC audiences - is drawing attention to the value of online blogs to news reporting.

The competition - now well under way and closing on March 31 - was launched earlier this month with a debate that let English-speaking Jordanians express their views on how the use of the internet and online media affects their daily lives.

The panellists emphasised the increasing importance of blogs in the region, highlighting their part in shaping news by giving individuals the freedom to express and share their opinions freely.

"It was very encouraging to witness the involvement of Jordanians in the debate," said Roba Al Assi, a competition judge and creator of the "andfaraway" blog.

"There is a lot to be said about the effects of something as drastic in its importance as the internet in Jordan and in the Arab world, and this was a great debate that put some issues for thought on the table."

However, while some countries in the region have been underlining the importance of blogs in traditional media, bloggers in other Middle Eastern countries have been incarcerated and censored for their online writings.

Last month in Egypt, blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman was sent to prison for the contents of his weblog. He was sentenced to four years for charges of insulting Islam and the country's president on his ‘karam903' blogspot site.

The BBC NewsMaker competition is putting Jordan in the front seat for encouraging citizen journalism and alternative media viewpoints.

Panellist Dana Sayagh, head of news and current affairs at ATV, said: "In the age of citizen journalism, when participation is key in shaping the identity of nations, it's very important to involve the youth and encourage them to contribute in shaping what news is."

The competition - open to non-professional journalists aged 20-30 years old - will reward two winners with laptop computers and the chance to broadcast to 42 million radio listeners around the globe plus millions more online.


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