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Roles of International Citizen Reporters in Internet Era
[Speech text] OhmyNews founder and CEO Oh Yeon Ho welcomes participants to Seoul, June 24
Oh Yeon Ho (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2005-06-28 14:37 (KST)   
Oh Yeon Ho
©2005 Nam S.Y.
Greetings everyone!

Today we have come together as one, as "citizen reporters," here from 25 countries. We are from different countries and are different ethnicities, but we share the same slogan. That slogan is "every citizen is a reporter."

One of the citizen reporters here today has come from the other side of the world, all the way from Chile. She has traveled 18,340 kilometers, flying 31 hours to be here with us. Maria Pastora Sandoval Campos, are you here? Will you kindly stand up for a moment? Please give a round of applause to Ms. Pastora.

There are people here of all ages. Here with us there is a 10 year-old elementary school student, an American by the name of Kai Jorgensen.

History will record this day as the first step that was taken by the citizen reporters of the world in the name of international solidarity. We have come together to share what we can do for a better world.

OhmyNews began in 2000 carrying the banner "every citizen is a reporter." At the time we were not sure how many would join us, but we began with 727 citizen reporters. Five years later there are approximately 38,000 citizen reporters. Among those, around 400 are foreigners, citizen reporters like you. The world media has taken notice of your work because you are building a new kind of journalism.

Take a look at the faces of everyone at your table. Take the hands of the people next to you. Look at them and say, "You are writing a new chapter in the history of journalism."

You citizen reporters have demonstrated how the world can change when citizens come together. One of the key elements of democracy is participatory democracy, democracy where anyone who wants to participate is guaranteed the right to do so. In journalism, however, it took a long time before participatory democracy was made a reality. One-way journalism was taken as a matter of course. The idea that professional reporters write and that citizens become readers was accepted as truth.

As citizen reporters, however, you have changed that. You have made one-way journalism into two-way journalism. Citizens are no longer spectators. A new era has begun in which regular citizens can become reporters whenever they so desire, and by doing so contribute to public opinion.

Naturally it was the emergence of the Internet that made two-way journalism possible. The Internet is not restrained by time and space, and guarantees the participation of regular citizens instead of merely professional reporters. However, the Internet does not automatically assure that citizens actually participate. Only when there are citizens who desire to change the world for the better does the internet become a useful medium for participation.

Technology cannot by itself change the world. Only when there are participating citizens -- citizens ready to write -- can technology be used constructively to change the world. As citizen reporters it is you who are changing the world by putting Internet technology to good use.

That is particularly why I want to encourage you to experience as much as you can while in Seoul. During your four-day, three-night stay, you will experience "IT Korea," the Korea of information technology. However, I hope you will also be able to learn about Korea's dynamic participatory democracy.

The global village is facing various difficult challenges. Wars between hostile nations continue. The disparity between rich and poor nations is growing. The world's ecology is being altered in many places around the world because of climatic changes caused by environmental pollution. The earth itself is being threatened.

The greater the difficulties and the harder it is to resolve them, the more the world needs the wisdom and solidarity of conscientious citizens. This gathering will be an opportunity to agonize over what role the citizen reporter can play in international solidarity for a better world.

International solidarity is needed also for the development of citizen participatory journalism. The OhmyNews motto "every citizen is a reporter" is spreading all over the globe. In some countries it is being expressed through the activities of bloggers, and in some countries it is being expressed in models similar to OhmyNews.

Taking citizen participatory journalism to the next level will require the wise resolution of various issues. There needs to be increased confidence in articles by citizen reporters and there needs to be a higher degree of accuracy. Making media that embody sustainable models of citizen participatory journalism will require the development of unique models for survival. There needs to be structured scholarly research into the phenomenon of citizen participatory journalism. Most importantly, there needs to be mutually encouraging solidarity so that this new form of journalism, which is still in its infancy, can grow.

That is why I want to propose to you who are putting citizen participatory journalism into practice that we create an "Alliance for Global/World Citizen Participatory Journalism." Any news medium that works for the development of citizen participatory journalism, whether on paper or through the internet, as well as groups, individuals, bloggers, and scholars of journalism should be able to participate. The organization would operate largely in cyberspace, and should become the basis for the systematic development of the citizen participatory journalism that has grown until now.

It is time to bring my opening address to an end. I would ask that you -- the foreign citizen reporters from 25 countries and the Korean citizen reporters -- take the initiative in participating to make the International Citizen Reporters' Forum a success. Today you are making history. Thank you.
©2005 OhmyNews

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