by Maria H. Lewytzkyj
- USA -
I keep a blog on MySpace devoted to coverage of the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. By giving life to this blog, my initial goal was to bring together a network of people from civil society who would become involved and stay informed. Early on, I posted an op-ed about China's role in Darfur and how the world was more interested in technological advances than the worsening human conditions in Darfur. A few of my friends on MySpace showed interest. One turned it into a podcast, and another started to correspond with me regularly. Soon we were adding people to our blogs who were genuinely interested in what was happening in Darfur, and though they felt completely helpless, they still wanted to stay informed. My experience in keeping this blog demonstrates the advantage bloggers have over the mainstream media - free press. Bloggers have the freedom to include perspectives and ideas that are often not included in mainstream coverage. This article is a jumping-off point for me to begin sharing my blog with readers of The WIP by cross-posting my Darfur coverage on The WIP's TALK blog.
The Darfur conflict has been ongoing since 2003. Daily attacks by the Janjaweed and other Arab herding leaders have been authorized by the Sudanese government on non-Arab African farming tribes. Janjaweed attackers have claimed that Sudan is 'only for Arabs.' Free rein over a terrified, poverty-stricken and displaced population has continued, and though at times it seems to improve, rebel groups continue fighting for control of territory and resources.On my blog, I've posted links to corporations like GE who practice social responsibility by donating to Darfur causes and demands on Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to divest a $3.31 billion stake in Chinese owned PetroChina Co. I've shared native Sudanese accounts and stories from local Sudanese female journalists who report from the area. I've featured stories about Sudan’s alternatives to exporting oil, public comments by Sudanese President al-Bashir, the impact of the International Criminal Court and health conditions for Darfurians. I’ve highlighted stories about Sudan's election laws and civil society, stories that share the perspectives of Darfur rebels and those of Sudanese advisors offering advice on steps toward building democracy, like Bona Malwal, the Sudanese Presidential advisor. I've shared the stories that the mainstream press has completely avoided.
In one article, Bona Malwal said that what Sudan needs is to identify what unites the Sudanese people before even talking about democracy. In response, one of my readers proposed, "A shared history of being brutalized is not really enough to cause a people to adhere and in fact renders them more volatile, but it's about all that the Sudanese people really have in common."In response to Ban Ki-moon's call for more political action, one reader wrote, "It is very discouraging how you have to hunt for these stories in the UK. It angers me that the way the media picks their stories and repeats the same one over and over again without giving more balanced coverage."
A new reader left a general comment recognizing that although there has been a lot of attention paid to the Darfur problem, little has been done to stop the genocide. He added, "This is such a shame to mankind in 2008, we still let people die in this way. And what's worse is that the governing bodies sit by and do nothing. Shame on us all."
In choosing what types of articles to post on my blog, I have tried to find stories that share success stories (like donated laptops for children in Darfur) to help balance the negative coverage. I’ve included many stories that show China's efforts to press Darfur in addressing the concerns of the international community. I have also featured other scholarly work on the topic, stories that share the Arab League’s response and the efforts of international organizations and individuals who have either suffered attacks or have left their posts as a result of failed attempts to help reconcile the conflict. Since starting this blog, I have tried to provide stories that address the conflict itself and the situation of the victims rather than those that provide more exposure for the parties that have escalated the conflict.
Ever since posting my first entry, I have shared articles written by Sudanese, journalists and members of the international community who cannot sit by and watch as the means for communication improve while the human condition worsens. By maintaining this blog, I have found an online community of people interested in staying informed on Darfur and I have given them perspectives that are often missed in the mainstream. I'm happy to be able to fill this void and connect with others who are also using whatever means possible to break the silence. I feel obligated to challenge the notion that domestic hardship should preclude foreign intervention. I also feel obligated to reshape the coverage about Darfur to identify the positive changes that have occurred since the beginning of the war and provide the real stories that the mainstream media often lacks.
About the Author
Maria H. Lewytzkyj, a Ukrainian-American born in the US, is a Master's student in International Policy Studies at MIIS, specializing in international mediation and negotiations. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University in English Literature. She has published articles on international conflicts, as well as health issues and the genocide in Ukraine.
Maria has kept a blog about Darfur on Myspace since April 2007 to keep people informed and bring attention to the plight of the crisis' innocent victims. Someday she hopes to do more advocacy, negotiation and mediation work for victims, helping them to lead fulfilling lives. In her spare time, Maria enjoys playing tennis and music, loves to travel, helps musicians with publicity and spends time with her friends.