The internet has undoubtedly become a valuable tool in giving voice to the voiceless. The World Wide Web; a colossal stage upon which stories of despair, suffering, misfortune, persecution as well as bravery, joy and hope, can be retold to a potentially vast audience. If just one person’s eyes are prised open to see the issues faced by marginalised societies, something has been achieved.
NGOs and the Roma community in the Czech Republic have embraced the opportunities of cyberspace – blogs, news reports, commentaries, photos, event announcements and English speaking updates are uploaded continuously. The internet has become THE means to expose deprivation and discrimination, to demonstrate what is being done to generate change, to enable the communication and discussion of new ideas, to promote the Romany language and culture…the list goes on. Sadly, there is a rather large BUT, one which became all too evident as I visited the NGO Romodrom as they set up their summer camp for socially deprived Roma children.
I am still struggling to find the words that adequately describe my weekend in the Czech countryside with this most extraordinary group of people. Music, crackling campfires, laughter, delicious food, patience and generosity triggered a thawing of the language impasse and I began to understand just a little more of life as a Roma in the Czech Republic. I hope that blogs to come will allow me to share it.
The one thing I can promise is that the letters that appear on the screen before you in forthcoming entries will NOT always be accompanied by vivid photographs. I would like you to remember why, why an eagerness to converse coexists with a reluctance to be caught on film. The reason in a nutshell? The internet. That same tool that gives voice to the voiceless also gives voice to hate. Facebook, Youtube, Myspace, Twitter and online forums: as the Roma use the new platforms to air grievances, their appetite for change and pride in their culture, the far-right also take advantage of the opportunities cyberspace has to offer. I do not wish to turn this into a debate about the boundaries of free speech, but the freedom is undoubtedly a right which comes with responsibility. The intimidation of those who have taken up the enormous challenge of ending the plight of the Roma by posting vulgar and abusive commentaries on the web is cowardly and simply wrong.
Remember this black box when reflecting on sparse blog entries. The internet opens many doors, yet particularly for the Roma – where problems such as unemployment, ghettoisation and a lack of education are compounded by (and so often also a consequence of) entrenched prejudice, what lies beyond can’t unequivocally be labelled “progress”.
Posted By Christina Hooson
Posted Aug 13th, 2009