Activists are tapping into the cyber world’s everyday buzz to get messages about human rights across to a wider audience.
The first Indonesian Human Rights Blog Awards, which announced its winners on Friday, displayed one of their efforts to increase awareness about human rights and its violations among those whose professions do not directly expose them to such issues.
Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono from the competition’s organizer, the Indonesia Media Defense Litigation Network (IMDLN), said in a speech at the event at the National Museum in Jakarta that his organization felt that “issues about human rights remains a … discourse revolving around certain communities such as activists, journalists, lawyers or academics.”
This limitation, he said, was “perhaps due to the usage of instrumental language, which appears highly academic.”
The organization thus felt the need to encourage the promotion of human rights through methods such as using everyday language and relating the issue with everyday life experiences, Supriyadi added.
“With the soaring growth in the number of Internet users in Indonesia, we are sure that the effort to promote human rights can proceed in never-before-imagined speed and range,” he said.
The Internet World Stats cited Indonesia as having around 55 million Internet users as of December 2011, while Japan and South Korea has 101.2 million and 40.3 million, respectively.
Indonesia’s population currently stands at around 237 million.
Despite it having ratified various human rights-related conventions, the country recently came under criticism regarding violations of these rights.
The Human Rights World Report 2012, released earlier this year, concluded that use of excessive force by Indonesian authorities and attacks on religious minorities had been far worse in 2011 than in the previous year.
The recent United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva saw delegates expressing their concern about the prosecution of religious minorities in the country.
According to National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairperson Ifdhal Kasim, public spaces have moved “dramatically to smaller spaces. People need only small devices, [such as] BlackBerrys and tablet [computers] to communicate by opening blogs, contacting other social worlds. Thus, the spreading of human rights through social media becomes very effective.”
Supriyadi said that as many as 81 bloggers having 217 postings about human rights in their blogs initially participated in the competition. After filtering using administrative requirements such as post length and blog age, 44 bloggers with 155 postings were left to compete.
The jury, which included activists and journalists, proceeded to select winning blog posts — one for the “general” category and the other for a “special” category, which touches upon certain issues such as the rights of the disabled and LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgenders).
According to the website hamblogger.org, the competition opened on Feb. 27 this year. Participants had until May 30 to register.
Andara, one of the jury members for the competition, said that the criteria used to judge the entries included originality and the use of language that is easily understood.
The competition’s two winners were Yudha P Sunandar with his blog post “Budi is Different…” for the general category and Ricky Mardiansyah with his blog post “Jangan Renggut Hak Asasi Manusia Untuk Mencintai” (Do not Take Away the Human’s Right to Love) for the special category. Both winners are from Bandung.
“Budi is Different…” tells the story of a person with cerebral palsy named Budi Pramono, whom Yudha met around a few weeks ago.
“I was a bit surprised when I saw him … I thought he was disabled mentally, but he actually has cerebral palsy … and he is able to make literary works. He has written poems and is preparing a book,” he said.
The post tells of Budi’s workplace, the Bandung Independent Living Center, which is an NGO that encourages independent living for people with special needs.
Yudha said that Budi’s story is among the many on his blog that he considers inspiring. According to him, the blog receives around 100 visits a day or around 200 when he posts a new entry.
He was informed of the competition through an invitation sent to the Bandung bloggers community mailing list.
Ricky’s entry, meanwhile, tells of his experience coming out.
“I am gay and when my extended family found out about it, they told me that it was wrong and that I should return to what is the right way according to them, that I should learn about religion, that I should stay with a relative. I refused that. They are now a bit distanced from me but I don’t care. Whomever I love is my right and no one can take it away. And I am happy with the one I love,” he said of his post.
Supriyadi said that the number of bloggers writing about human rights was lower than he predicted.
“My target was actually 300 bloggers willing to enter this competition,” he said.
According to Supriyadi, the blogging community in several areas, including Bandung and Jakarta was apparently still unaware of the importance of blogging about human rights, despite frequent encounters with the issue in their everyday life.
Most blogs in Indonesia contain diary-like postings about personal experiences and feelings, Supriyadi said.
“During the first selection, we discovered that [the blogs were actually made by] fellow activists,” he said.
The competition in the future will likely divide the entrants into several categories such as students and activists, Supriyadi said.
The awards were sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Wiki Media Indonesia, AJI Indonesia and ICT Watch.