Training journalists and activists in ex-Yugoslavia to get the most out of internet
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY, 25 December 2004
ZaMirNET, the APC member in Croatia, held
within its MediaNET project the NetActivism workshop in Opatija from 13-19 November 2004. The purpose of the workshop –attended by 20 young journalists and members of different civil society organisations (CSOs) coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro – was to teach participants how to use internet as a tool for communication, organisation, coordination and mobilisation of civil society movements in the global context.
The MediaNET project aims to strengthen professional skills as well as stronger linkages among young journalists and CSO activists, present opportunities of utilising electronic media, particularly video, community radio and internet to support the development of independent activist media.
The agenda for the workshop was derived from the APC’s guide to understanding CSO portals. During the workshop participants were involved in the portal planning process, beginning with identifying the community, content, management and business models and technology platform for their future projects.
“The focus of the training was understanding the theory behind how to use internet as a networking tool as well as practical hands-on training,” says Zeljko Bagaric, who ran the workshop together Eric Bachman (FoeBuD e.V.), Danijela Babic (ZaMirNET), Branimir Sloser and Iva Kraljevic (FADE-IN, Indymedia Hrvatska). “Face-to-face training sessions were held in the computer lab with internet access and supplemented with reference materials. The training was structured in such a manner that after theoretical sessions participants had access to the tools so that they could practise building communication, organisation, coordination and mobilisation infrastructure.”
The group of 20 participants was a mixture of professional and young journalists engaged in either commercial print or electronic media or in activists in the fields of human rights, minority rights, culture, youth, women and environment. The majority had little or no knowledge at all related to the “real” potential and use of internet as a networking tool. Their general perception and use of the internet was limited to publishing news on individual websites, research and email. Some of the participants coming from CSOs, had used collaborative web tools for the preparation of texts for publishing.
“During and after the workshop, the participants showed significant progress in understanding what possibilities technology offers,” says Zeljko, “and what it takes, from the point of community, content, finance, governance and technology, to run a thriving community portal valuable to CSOs and independent media.” The final product of the workshop was a fully functional portal with communication, collaborative and mobilisation features.
All the practical work was based on PostNuke and Mambo content management system (CMS) software hosted on a GNU/Linux server.
Additional lectures on internet culture, online communities, ZaMir Transnational Network, ZaMirZine (civil society electronic newspapers), Indymedia, and introduction to free and open source software (GNU/Linux, and different FLOSS CMSs), gave a solid insight into the social, economical and political contexts from which networking technology emerged, the values and beliefs of the creators of the internet that were built into the technology as well as the characteristic of technology to, over time, influence and transform society and civil society movements.
Zeljko believes that in all three countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro) the internet as a tool for networking is still in its infancy. “Though more people will take it up rapidly as soon as training and broadband becomes more available and affordable,” he told APCNews. Keeping that in mind, ZaMirNet plans to run this workshop for as many CSOs as possible in the future.