Egypt has changed the face of social media. Bold statement, I know, but for anyone who followed the events in 140 characters or less the news coming from citizen journalists on the ground was enthralling (and the main cause of my newfound insomnia). People coordinated pickups of lost children, organized medical supply deliveries, and shared location information on the whereabouts of snipers on nearby buildings. Decentralized battle plans were tweeted, videos shared, audio uploaded from the site of the protest. We watched a government shut down the Internet, and for the most part, succeed in clamping down on communications. As advocates for open communication, we looked upon this in horror. What right does any government have to stifle communications? None, According to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, authored by the United Nations. It states (paraphrasing) Communication is a human right regardless of the media frontier. Mera Szendro Bok has founded a campaign advocating this principle; the Communication is your Right! Campaign.
Its a global campaign directed at the UN urging stronger enforcement of Article 19. The campaign encourages citizen journalism from around the globe to highlight communication and media issues in their communities. The campaign is composed of media makers, media reformers and human rights advocates that are working together to establish a broad network, reach out to communities, and create media about communication rights. One of these, The Global Voices Project- Threatened Voices highlights the danger to journalists around the world, “Never before have so many bloggers been imprisoned.” This is unacceptable not only because being able to communicate is vital to changing our lives and community- but because it is a human right. If this doctrine were more widely accepted and enforced people would see media reform as critical to humanity. Mera hopes and believes that “Citizens would fight to deconsolidate media with the understanding that consolidated corporate media is destructive to global communication and they have the right to access and impart information through any communications medium.“
Mera goes on to explain, “In Tim Wu’s book “The Master Switch” he writes “the flow of information is invisible and lacks the emotional urgency of the civil rights movement.” We must work with human rights groups to tell the stories that are being suppressed because of corporate and state actions and how media reform can transform this injustice. Effective messaging that frames our policy fights with strong, emotional urgency and speaks about communication public interest media policy as a fundamental right can aid us in building more support for media policy reform.”
Right now, Mera is working at New Media Rights in San Diego, Ca implementing communications strategy on digital rights advocacy. New Media offers free legal assistance on copyright and online publishing, works on creative commons licensing, fair use law and addresses how these laws impact creators.
Mera also helped organize Mozilla’s Drumbeat San Diego on February 5, 2011, which drew a crowd of over 150 participants. The event included sessions on Citizen 2.0, open data, and open source projects.
Her love for media reform and organizing work came from her upbringing. A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of self-expression, storytelling, authentic communication and cultural diversity. During college she realized that she wanted to learn communication strategy for media reform. She worked at the UN during college and her passion for communications rights continued to grow. Shortly after graduation she went to Washington D.C. to meet with Free Press, Media Access Project and Nathaniel James. Her time in DC confirmed she was on the right path, she continued to work towards a stronger media reform movement and is fighting for communication to be recognized as a human right. You can contact Mera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Rachel Colyer for the Media and Democracy Coalition Newsletter