Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at d.butler@nature.com

September 25, 2006

Bloggers rally for liberation of the ‘Tripoli Six’

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 7:08 pm

Last week, I posed a question on this blog: “Can the blogosphere help free the Tripoli six?
Although its too soon to give a definitive answer to that question, it is not too soon to say that it will not be for want of trying. The response of the science blogosphere over the past 5 days has been astonishing, with over 125 posts so far.

So much so, that I’ve written a news article on nature.com this evening — Bloggers rally for liberation of the ‘Tripoli Six’ — on the phenomenon.

Excerpts

Bloggers have rallied around a call from a humanitarian lawyers’ organization for greater international pressure to free six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya on charges of deliberately infecting over 400 children with HIV.

The movement, which began primarily with science bloggers, spread over the weekend to some of major US political blogs, including several posts on the Daily Kos, which is the world’s most highly-ranked political blog according to the Technorati blog search engine, and has around half a million readers daily. The Daily Kos articles in turn have been linked to by more conservative blogs such as Instapundit.

“The penetration of this story in the science blogging world has been phenomenal,” says ‘Revere’, a contributor to the blog Effect Measure, which is run by anonymous senior US epidemiologists.

The story’s spread to both left and right-leaning political blogs is “significant”, says Revere, as it suggests that the issue could gain non-partisan support in the United States.

The bloggers’ response this week has helped, if only by raising public awareness, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer. The mainstream media has not generated sustained attention to the case because it has gone on for so long, he says, adding that perhaps the blogosphere, with less need for hard news angles, may “provide a good relay” for information on the case.

“It’s always difficulty to quantify the impact of such campaigns,” says Alexiev, “but yes, they must absolutely continue, it can make a difference.”

In response to the blog campaign, Mickey Grant, a filmmaker based in Dallas, Texas, today also made available for free on the Internet the full-length 1h 22 min version of his 2003 documentary on the medics’ case, Infection.

Let’s see what happens next, as this story will run for weeks, if not months. But Alexiev’s quote should give encouragement: “The bloggers must absolutely continue, it can make a difference.”

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