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50/50: Going Digital for Gender Equality

When we started this blog, we sometimes had the impression that we had to actively look for examples of the use of digital tools for political campaigns. A year and a bit later, things have changed significantly (fortunately!) The “50/50 Campaign for Democracy” is one of the most recent cases we have happily stumbled upon.

The main goal? Ensuring a 50/50 women-to-men representation in the 2009 European Parliament elections as well as the new European Commission.

How? The website is maybe a bit too wordy for the casual visitor, but it does have a practical section called “Take action” with specific ideas on things to do to help achieve the goal (ranging from a simple signature to participating in local activities, to sending a letter to your national political parties… and they even give you the template to make it easier!)

Who?
The campaign is run by the European Women’s Lobby and has an impressive list of supporters, including prominent political figures from the EP, Commission, as well as national governments….

One gets the impression by looking at this that the PA-Digital link seems to be really catching on… among the campaign supporters are many prominent bloggers including European Commissioner Margot WallströmAnna Diamatopoulou now active in Greek politics (sorry, blog in Greek), and the Spanish Minister for Equality Bibiana Aido who at age 31 is possibly the youngest blogger (and politician!) in this group.

Yes, we admit we have selectively only mentioned female bloggers in this post, mainly because there is a question some of us have been discussing recently and thought this would be a good occasion to ask your opinion…

Do you think women are more active bloggers than men in the public affairs arena??

October 14, 2008 at 5:06 pm Leave a comment

Tibet, Tibet.

The question of an independent Tibet is by no means a new one. As the Free Tibet movement has stumbled wilfully on over the years, the media spotlight has been focused back onto this high, arid and culturally unique (dare I say?) country.

Recent events in the region have been covered closely and have sparked new interest on the situation, channelled particularly well using the freedom that internet-based social media allows. Freedom, of course, is a large part of the problem.

Protests both inside Tibet and the surrounding area have been met with some force. Demonstrations in India provoked a strong reaction from the police, and whilst India is not normally a country to jump immediately to the diplomatic aid of China, this movement may be ideologically as much a problem for the Indians as the Chinese, as they too face strong revolutionary movements.

The situation has since flared up. Some protests were reduced to violence as local Han and Hui Chinese businesses were damaged and burned, followed by reports that Chinese forces had opened fire on protestors including monks, “in self defence”.

As ever, conflicting information pours from the area. Chinese government sources claimed the violent protests took 16 lives, whilst the Dalai Lama maintained that almost 100 people have been killed in the crackdown by Chinese troops.

Getting the real story remains a difficult task. Being a journalist in China (whether local or foreign) is never easy. Stories of journalists receiving an unwanted chaperone are not uncommon. However, as the situation escalated, the Economist’s Beijing correspondent found himself on the right (or wrong) side of the journalistically imporous Tibetan border.

Alongside The Economist’s success, the BBC, normally only available in diplomatic compounds and expensive hotels frequented by westerners have reported broadcasting problems. The censors behind the scenes have taken to swiftly blacking out the screen at the slightest mention of the Tibet issue.

Additionally, the Chinese government, well practised in internet censorship (remember when Google became not so squeaky-clean in their Chinese collaboration?) have begun penalising video-sharing websites such as YouTube. One of China’s most popular video-sharing sites, Tudou.com, was among those penalized, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said.

The protests have succeeded in doing exactly what the Chinese were trying to stop. The issue’s profile has been raised significantly, not only through mainstream media but also in the blogosphere and social networking sites.

There are over 500 Facebook groups related to Tibet, many of which have seen their membership double in the last few days. The blogosphere has also gone wild with the issue, with thousands of posts about the issue.

Even everybody’s favourite blogging European Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has covered the issue, as demonstrations outside the Council of Ministers brought the issue to the EU’s doorstep. She called for the Chinese government to address the concern of Tibetans with regards to human rights, and identified that this issue could affect general future EU-China relations.

This boom in interest is reflective of the steep rise in new social media attention to the Burma protests at the end of 2007, which highlighted the lack of international action against the Burmese government and identified “dirty lists” of companies still doing business with the Burmese government.

These human rights issues, although more emotive than most, are testament to the fact that new social media is potentially the quickest and most effective way of raising the profile of an issue. Of course this is exactly the reason why the Chinese government wish to keep tight reins on the use and content of the internet.

It is reassuring to see that alongside (and obviously second to) the terrible way in which the protests have been dealt with, one thing that people have really reacted to is internet freedom, which now almost appears to be a fundamental human right.  

March 21, 2008 at 7:25 pm Leave a comment

WAG THE BLOG

The increasing use of social media in political campaigning in Europe became especially visible in France’s last elections (Royal vs. Sarkozy), but in the US they really have it down to a fine art. Right now in the US, with the race on for the 2008 presidential elections, everyone seems to be using social technology, such as YouTube, as part of their campaigns. The reason behind this is that the internet has created a platform for ‘openess’, enabling people to ‘get to know’ candidates before voting for them, exemplified by the Senator John Edwards podcast run on Pod Tech.

My search to find examples of social media at work in European politics wasn’t that fruitful – a blog here, a video there – except maybe for David Cameron and his ‘WebCameron’. Instead I stumbled across an interesting US example from CNN.com entitled Netroots activism arrives.

(more…)

August 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Virtual Protesters for PETA

Desperately Seeking Stella

There’s more and more talk in mainstream media about Second Life (SL) and at the same time we see that many large businesses, as well as official institutions (such as the US Congress) have made efforts to ensure a SL presence. But is SL really being used in the realm of public affairs and activism?

Well, it seems it is… Once again, NGOs have been quick to embrace new ways of engaging people to take up their causes. Last night, Stella McCartney and PETA launched their anti-fur campaign (which runs until 29 July) exclusively via their Second Life island with a picnic and dance party with a “(second) live” DJ (and yes, all so-called avatars, i.e., your SL alter ego, were quite enthusiasticallly dancing with “Fur is not fair” signs – see above). (Incidentally, we didn’t find Stella).

(more…)

July 13, 2007 at 10:09 am Leave a comment


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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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