Global Voices Citizen Media summit: Ory Okolloh, KenyaPundit

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Ory Okolloh blogs at KenyaPundit, and also is a co-founder of political sites Ushahidi and Mzalendo. I heard her speak this morning at Global Voices Citizen Media summit on her blogging experiences. Throughout the Kenyan elections and the political violence there, she updated her blog very actively, sometimes every hour. Her blog became the center of controversy. While she was not censored, blocked, filtered, or otherwise threatened by the government, she was the target of personal attacks on her blog in comments and in email. There was a lot of misogynist hate speech, sexual threats from people who deliberately tried to invalidate her political blogging and silence her because she was female.

Ory says that she does not regret choosing to blog under her real name. Her non-anonymous stance protected her, and brought her a lot of support from an international community of bloggers, journalists, and human rights activists. Once she became high profile because of the post-election violence, it was harder to shut her down because she wasn't anonymous.

Other writers, bloggers, activists, and others who were the targets of violence began to contact her, asking her to tell the stories they were afraid to tell. People who didn't have the tools to blog, or who were scared of reprisals, turned to her, to cover their stories as a citizen journalist. Positive comments from supporters helped her keep going under what was often a heavy burden of responsibility. Ory's dedication to blogging and new media, through Mzalendo, has helped to make the Kenyan parliament more transparent and more accountable to the people it serves.

Here's a few more links on Ory Okolloh: an interview from March 2008 from ICT4peace, an earlier interview from Down the Avenue blog in 2005, and a more personal view on My Heart's in Accra where Ory tells some of her life story, her geekiness, and her hopes for her daughter's future.

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