Reporters Without Borders

Forbidden Voices – film tribute to three exceptional women bloggers

Forbidden Voices – film tribute to three exceptional women bloggers

Published on Wednesday 9 May 2012. Updated on Tuesday 15 May 2012.
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Reporters Without Borders is pleased to report that "Forbidden Voices", a film directed by Barbara Miller that highlights the Internet’s impact on freedom of information, goes on release in Switzerland on 10 May. Two years in the making, the document focuses on three courageous women bloggers from Iran, Cuba and China, countries that are on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”

Generación Y, a blog by Havana-based Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez), quickly became very popular after its April 2007 launch. Since winning an award by the Spanish daily El País in 2008, its readers have grown steadily, especially abroad. It takes a critical look at the everyday economic and social problems that Cubans have to deal with. Imaginative methods, including the use of USB flash drives and CDs, have to be used to circulate her posts in Cuba, where most of the population is limited to a highly-censored Intranet. Sánchez is subject to strict government censorship and smear campaigns, and has even been physically attacked. She was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2008, like Zeng Jinyan (see below) in 2007.

Despite the government’s censorship and repressive methods, the Chinese blogger and activist Zeng Jinyan (@zenjinyan) has been using her blog and Twitter since 2006 to describe her life, including the imprisonment of her human rights activist husband Hu Jia, who is famous for defending AIDS sufferers and the environment. When Hu was arrested, she and her baby were placed under house arrest, with guards stationed around their home to prevent them going out, but she continued to write about the fight for basic freedoms in China. When “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and fled to the US embassy two weeks ago, Zeng reported that his relatives were being harassed during the wrangle between the US and Chinese authorities about his fate, and she challenged the official version of events.

Censored and threatened, Iranian blogger and online women’s rights campaigner Farnaz Seifi finally had to flee abroad and now lives in Germany. She and other Iranian women’s rights activists are an example of how the Internet can be used to influence governments. She is a member of Change for Equality (www.we-change.org), a website launched in September 2006 by a group of about 20 women, mostly bloggers and journalists, to promote a campaign for changes to laws that discriminate against women. It has become an authoritative source of information about women’s rights in a society ruled by fundamentalists and its achievements include helping to challenge a bill facilitating polygamy and helping to develop Iranian civil society. Hundreds of the movement’s activists have been summoned, arrested and jailed.

In the past few years, the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information, and have constantly pushed back the boundaries of censorship. Netizens are at the centre of the political changes taking place all over the world. They combat attempts to impose news blackouts but often pay a high price at the hands of regimes that do not tolerate dissent. "Forbidden Voices" shows the degree to which the Internet has become an extraordinary tool for combating the propaganda of dictatorial regimes, but also the risks run by women who are committed to online free expression.

To watch the trailer and get more information about the film, go to this website: http://forbiddenvoices.net/

"Forbidden Voices" was produced by Philip Delaquis and Das Kollektiv für audiovisuelle Werke GmbH and is distributed by Filmcoopi.

Media contact: Das Kollektiv, +41 43 811 50 50, info@daskollektiv.ch

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