Sunday, April 18, 2010

Txt Letters to the Ed in Namibia

The independent newspaper of Namibia, The Namibian, accepts and prints mobile-texted (SMS) letters to the Editor three times a week. The program has been wildly successful in sparking national discussion on a range of topics. Government officials as well as citizens participate in the innovative program. PBS has the story here. How does this freedom of speech connect to class discussions?


  1. By: Alison Schroeder

    The Namibian relates directly back to our class discussions and the idea of freedom of speech in a few ways. One way that it relates back is the idea of our weekly commentaries. When we have those 15 minutes during class to read each others commentaries it is helpful to get feedback from others comment on our own sheets. This allows each of us to have the time to write down any thoughts we have about what the other student has written. Another way that this relates back to the freedom of speech concept in our class discussions is that you allow us to elaborate and speak our mind on any topic that you have brought up in class, and that is without a "cultural lens." Any one can say something and judgment won't be passed.

  2. Shawna Bruell (Extra Credit Commentary)
    This article about "The Nambian," definitely relates to class discussions on many levels. Many times we have talked about freedom of speech, how it is a freedom that many of us take for granted, but billions upon billions of people don't have this right. You (Professor Brown) allow us to exercise this right of ours with our commentaries on the blog and out typed ones we bring to class. It is important to say what we choose and allow other people to get out perspective without threat of being physically or verbally abused because we have the "wrong opinion." I think this new idea for The Nambian is great! As quoted in the article "This way allows more people to have their say and it's quick and it's simple -- everybody's got a phone, it gives everybody a chance to be involved." I think this is a great stride for any country. However, their are still "kinks" that need to be worked out as mentioned in the article, comments must be submitted in English. This is giving the content of commentaries that is seen a very narrow view. Many people do not speak English so this eliminates them from voicing their opinion on things. It is not complete freedom of speech unless everyone can participate.

  3. Kelsey Brennan (extra credit)

    As Americans, I believe we take for granted our right to freedom of speech. Through this course we've learned that people in other countries are not as fortunate as us to express their ideas and opinions in a public manner. Whether it was the novels or poems we read, or the movies we watched, they were all outlets for people to share their thoughts because that was their only way of doing so. For example, Pablo Neruda was able to express his negative opinions on foreign involvement in Latin America through poetry; a form that would not get him exiled or killed for his beleifs. I think the Namibian's idea of allowing people to comment through texting on news stories is another innovative way for more people to gain the right to freedom of speech. Sure, there are some negative aspects to this idea, such as only people who speak English can text in, but in a short time I'm sure they will have evolved the process so that people who speak a different language can also have a voice.

  4. Heather Allen

    Freedom of speech is very important to class discussions, especially in regards to Poetry of Revolt. The people who are fighting for their right are constantly in a struggle to express what they are feeling. Freedom of speech could be taken away and the people who are oppressed will never be heard. This article is great because it gives the people a voice, when otherwise it may seem like they have none. Although I'm interested to know whether or not the editor of the newspaper does anything about the concerns of the people who text in their comments. I think if given the opportunity everyone enjoys expressing their opinion and this is a great way for more people to do it. I'm glad this has been a successful program, maybe other newspapers in other countries will catch on.

  5. Tuba Ahmed

    I think that the text message forum provided by the newspaper is a great way for people to be involved in national political issues that directly concern them, as well as to simply express themselves freely. This relates back to our discussions of how often times, people face pressure from repressive government in which this type of free expression is very limited, or not even possible. This is why publishing texts that contribute to meaningful discussion is so critical. Although there is controversy over content and language of the texts, I think that these problems are inevitable in any act of free speech—meaning that there will always be people who wish you would say something a different way, or have something entirely different to say. Ultimately, the newspaper’s decision to continue publishing these texts allows for citizens to feel like they are a part of the larger political and social picture, which I think is more important than quibbling over who said what and why they said it.

  6. I think this is a fascinating idea and one that the Breeze here at JMU might consider implementing. The author of the article was correct in saying that "everyone has a phone." I'm not aware of anyone on this campus who lacks text-messaging capabilities. There is a staggering wave of indifference plaguing this country. Making it easier for people to submit their views and have people read it/hear it is the only way this problem will be overcome. The language barrier would not be a challenge here because the bulk of our citizens are English speaking.

  7. This is a very intersting and unique way to get people involved and for others to see what concerns are surfacing around them. Controversies surrounds all new ideas that become popular with the public. It is true when the article says everyone has a phone, this in turn will make people more willing to participate and find out things that hadn't known. This idea may be beneficial for my gerenation where people are so unconcerned about so many issues effecting not only our nation but the world as a whole.

  8. Natasha Bauer
    GENG 239
    May 4, 2010

    I think it’s great that The Namibian is trying to create an interface in which politics, culture and opinions can be easily interacted. This freedom of speech is only a step towards modernization in Namibia’s journey towards becoming a globalized and respected African country. My only concern with the article was when it stated that the newspaper had full rights to edit the messages as they pleased. Clearly, there is room for controversy in that allowance because the texts could be totally morphed into something that the original sender did not intend to convey. However, in truth, it is still a young concept and developing one at that. It defiantly marks some progression in yet another African developing country, politically, as well as socio-economically by allowing all types of persons to SMS what they want as they please. It is not prejudice (other than only accepting English messages) and allows the public to hear from the public through a public newspaper.