Tunisia Blog Awards 2008: Why Is It Up In Flames?

Before I even start this post, I’ll have to admit that I haven’t been as active as I once was in the Tunisian blogging scene, even though I try to always follow what’s going on.

It’s not that I don’t feel like I’m a part of it anymore, neither is it because I think it’s gotten mixed up or anything, in fact quite the opposite, I’m very happy with where we’ve all gotten to. Just a few years ago, Tunisian bloggers could be counted on the fingers of one hand; now we have hundreds of active bloggers who are writing about everything, and voicing their opinions and thoughts about any issue that comes to mind. Day after day, the Tunisian blogosphere is representing the Tunisian society more and more, but in a more open and free way, and that can only be great, and I can only be proud that I’ve been there to witness it all from the beginning.

Anyway back to the topic of this post, the big hot story of today in the Tunisian blogosphere, the Tunisia Blog Awards 2008. It seems these awards are going up in flames, with many blogs joining the anti-TBA campaign, strongly condemning how the organizers have been filtering blog submissions and not accepting certain blogs, that are actually very popular ones, and who would certainly end up winning if left to join.

I’m personally not too hot for awards thingies of this kind at a stage like we’re at, and haven’t even checked who has been nominated and accepted, all I know is who hasn’t, and I think some of them are among the best Tunisian bloggers we have, and that it is unacceptable to ban them from joining because of what they write.

Some of these blogs were even nominated and won in the last Tunisia Blog Awards, so what has changed since then?

Well it seems it’s because the organizers are trying to make a bigger deal out of this one, bringing sponsors on board, thereby making it commercial, and because of it having to run a “clean”, “friendly” and well, let’s just say it as it is, censored event.
Yep, yep, it seems money brought its old friend censorship to the party again! 

And that’s totally wrong, the blogosphere is a whole, it’s not a selection of friendly neutral blogs, as great as those might be, it’s everything, it’s a mirror of the Tunisian society, and should be taken as such.

This should be understood by the organizers and explained to the sponsors. It’s either you organize and sponsor a true Tunisia Blog Awards, or you just don’t do it. There is no compromise. Done otherwise, it can be called anything but the Tunisia Blog Awards, because it wouldn’t be representative of the Tunisian blogosphere, or the Tunisian society, and that would make it meaningless.

Of course, there should be rules, that should be clear from the beginning, and that should be logical, not for censorship purposes. These should be communicated on, explained and held on to. And everyone should stick to them and just them.

Another point my friend Houssein made is that on top of everything, this crisis was very badly managed by the organizers, with them staying silent while the fire grew bigger, not admitting they’re wrong, not taking part in the conversation, and actually trying to stop it by closing the group’s wall on Facebook. That last point is unexplainable to me, I mean what were they thinking? These are bloggers you’re dealing with, and you’re shutting down a group wall? They’ll just run to their blogs and open fire on you!
If anything it shows ignorance to what bloggers and blogging is all about: freedom, expression, conversations and opinions. 

Nothing personal against the organizers, whom I’ve met, and who are a very sweet and cool bunch, but they just did everything wrong with this.
I’d really hate to be in their place right now.

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