Monday, September 22, 2014

Sao Paulo's street art

Sao Paulo high rises with slums in the foreground
I have been watching off and on a programme titled “This is Brazil” on the TV. This programme commenced sometime around the Football World Cup. A Brazilian-born Australian, Fernanda de Paula anchors the half-hour (in fact 20-minute minus the infernal ads) programme and takes one on a tour of Brazil covering its economy, football, its favelas, the Amazon River and forests on its banks and the (native) Indian settlements. I have watched a few that showed the Rio, Brasilia,
Street art on Batman Alley, Sao Paulo
Amazon River, etc.

Yesterday the programme was on Sao Paulo that is considered to be the biggest city in the Southern hemisphere. The first section of the programme dealt with the wall graffiti in Sao Paulo. It was interesting to see graffiti being used as a means of expressing the repressed feelings
Our own Elephant God in residence in Sao Paulo
or pent up anger. The deprived of the city have taken to expressing themselves through their art on the walls. Despite the rapid economic growth of Brazil its inequalities show up through its slums, which are called favelas. Unlike Rio de Janiero, the Sao slums are generally relegated to the outskirts of the city - on the edge of a mesh of high rises.

I found some of the graffiti beautiful and some others being of massive proportions – unlike the ones one comes across in Europe
Another street with beautiful graffiti
which appear somewhat furtive and generally in less frequented or isolated places.  These mostly are cryptic messages written in stylised form with aerosol paint. Almost all countries of the West have witnessed wall graffiti, also known as street art and some even organise street art festivals. Sao Paulo is known for its street art. In my searches I found one even on our Elephant God Ganesh. Graffiti is a hugely interesting subject and one comes across some freshand also some weird expressions in the shape of street art.

I am uploading five photographs taken from the Internet to give an idea of Sao Paulo as a city and its street art.

Sao Paulo - trying to reach for the sky

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Islamic State - new Middle-Eastern threat

Captured Syrian soldiers being executed
These medieval marauding brutes of Islamic State of Iraq & Levant need to be stopped on their tracks. Working through a Caliphate these brutes are spreading death and depredation in the areas under their control which they now call simply the Islamic State (IS), after removing the names Iraq and Levant from its earlier avatar. The State poses a threat to life and security in the Middle East and elsewhere and is poised to absorb more and more areas in the region under it. It has piled up human rights abuses against it and the Caliphate’s dealings with adversaries, civilians, women, children, journalists and religious minorities have been unspeakably inhuman, brutal, cruel and utterly uncivilised.

Established in October 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq, as it was then named, began claiming authority over several provinces of the country. Gradually it expanded into other parts of Iraq and also into Syria, fulfilling its goal nursed since 2004 of establishing an Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) and re-named it as such. It now claims to control as many as 16 provinces in the two countries spread across the Iraq-Syrian border. IS is a Sunni extremist group that adheres to the global jihadist principles. The US Intelligence described it as no longer a militia but an army on the move – beyond being a terrorist group. It is reported to have incredible command and control systems with swift communicational facilities up and down the line; actually it is a well-oiled fighting machine.

 IS is cruel to the core. With the beheading of two American journalists by its executioners and now a British aid worker it displayed its beastly side making the international media erupt into a frenzy of recriminations. But its crimes are far more brutal. From ordinary banditry to genocide is what seems to sustain it. During June 2014 Iraq conflict it released videos of indiscriminate killings of thousands of Iraqi civilians as they disliked their ethnicity, religion or sect. Shias have come in for special attention and they have been subjects of murderous attacks in which thousands have lost their lives. The IS brutes have also brazenly killed hundreds of Yazidis, an ethno-religious Kurdish community the ancient religion of which is linked to Zoroastrianism. Thousands of them have fled their native lands in the Nineveh province of North Iraq, a region once part of Assyria. The IS has also been particularly harsh on the Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian and Syriac Christians. Like Mahamud of Ghazni, that 11th Century brute raider in India, they asked these hapless people to convert to Islam or face torture, mutilation or even death. Besides, photographs have recorded their cold-blooded en masse shooting of captured Syrian army men out in the open. 

The IS men are ruthless with women who have been kidnapped and raped in large numbers. Sexual violence is rampant in all the areas controlled by IS where an upsurge was noticed in crime against women. “Kidnapping, torture, executions, rape and many other hideous crimes" are routinely committed without any let or hindrance. A stiff dress code has been imposed on women, non-compliance of which entails torture and humiliation. The Guardian reported that the IS’s agenda extended to women’s bodies and that women living under their control were being abused and raped. Captured Yazidi women are being raped as sex-slaves on daily basis. They are being made to narrate their experiences to foreigners only to inform the world how barbaric the IS rebels are. Around 500 Christian women captured from areas overrun by the IS have been sold as sex-slaves. It has even made overtures to Uighur girls in China to come and act as sex-slaves for them. These monsters are plumbing new depths of depravity although they claim to be ruling by Sharia, “religious law of a prophetic religion”.

Though there are few reliable figures but IS probably is the richest jihadist group in the world. It has accumulated wealth from the loot of about $430 million from the Mosul Central Bank after the city’s capture and additional millions looted from other banks. In addition the gold bullion stolen from banks has added millions to its coffers. The IS members are racketeers par excellence. They are into collecting ransom as also extortion from big businesses, gold retail outlets and even truck drivers. Analysts believe that it makes around $2 million every day from sale of oil of the oilfields captured in Northern Iraq and other rackets of extortions, smuggling and ransom it runs in the area under its control which is now believed to be approximately the size of UK. Observers feel the IS are as bad as Taliban, the only difference being they have oilfields under their control which makes them frightfully rich. In addition they have a large stockpile of arms and ammunitions looted from Saddam Hussain’s arms cache comprising various kinds of assault rifles, missiles, tanks, anti tank missiles, field guns, howitzers, surface-to-air missiles, stingers and so on building up capability to fight on stolen or captured equipment. It even captured a few Blackhawk helicopters and cargo planes stationed at the Mosul Airport and has thus become a formidable force which is unlikely to be subdued by the inadequately equipped Iraqi or Syrian forces.

Considering itself to be patron of both IS and the Syrian group of jihadists al-Nusra, Al Qaida was, however, against the merger of the two which was decided unilaterally by IS. Al Qaida fell out with IS on this issue as the latter paid no heed to its directives. Isolated, weakened, somewhat peeved and jealous of the giant strides taken by its one-time protégé, it has now threatened jihad in the Indian subcontinent with the cooperation of its host country Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obviously, weakened as it is, it will use the resources Pakistani and Afghani jihadists of Lashkar-e Toiba and the Talibans, respectively, of both the countries for a push into India. The Pakistani jihadists and their patrons in Pakistan Army would only be too glad at the prospects of getting a force-multiplier. Their combined forces along with the home-grown Indian Mujahideen could pose a massive threat to India’s security.

The rise of the IS has been ascribed to pull-out by the US from Iraq to build up capacity in the Iraqi Army and its paramilitary forces to confront such eventualities as emergence of IS. Hillary Clinton has also indirectly blamed the US failure to help build up a credible force against Bashar al Assad in Syria yielding space for the rise of jihadist organizations like al-Nusra. This is a repeat by US of its Afghan campaign from where it pulled out leaving the field open without a capable deterrent for the abhorrent Taliban and their mentor, the Pakistani ISI. Obama has now resolved to take the fight to IS calling it a cancer that needs to be liquidated before it poses serious threat to US lives and property.

 Only future will tell what the fall-out of this engagement will be on India, which is under as much threat. It has to shore up its resources to fight the new menace on its horizon. It would need to marshal its economic, financial and political strengths to meet this challenge.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A seaplane and shanties

The photograph alongside displays an interesting perspective. It shows a seaplane a service of which was launched at Juhu Airport in Mumbai to connect Lonavla, the popular hill station near the metropolis. The plane will land at Pawana Dam near Lonavla.

The photograph shows a sea-plane poised for takeoff. In the foreground an agricultural worker continues to do his sowing work quite unconcerned. Beyond the aircraft, in the background one can see a shanty settlement from many of the shanties of which DTH antennas can be seen sticking out. Shanties and DTH? This was unthinkable a few years back. But today it is a reality – not only in Mumbai, even in Bhopal too. Within those small spaces the shanty-dwellers generally have all kinds of gadgetry and appliances the most ubiquitous of which are the TVs and mobile phones. These are the people who constitute Modi’s “neo-middleclass”. They have emerged from below poverty level but are yet to stabilise themselves in the (lower) middle classes

Outside the shanty clusters in Bhopal I have had occasion to see a number of motorbikes. And, also push-carts that sell hamburgers and other fast food items of Western and Chinese variety. On top of the carts there are signboards with FAST FOOD writ large on them in English.

Looks like, India is surely on the move.

Plight of electric rickshaws

Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist happened to mention that “Law is an ass”. There have been several examples where Mr. Bumble’s assertion was found to be true. A recent happening in our country proved once again how true the statement was.

The Delhi High court had banned plying of e-rickshaws in Delhi and has since issued orders of continuance of the ban. The ban was imposed on account of a petition filed against their plying as, it was contended, that they are hazardous for the general public having met with two accidents and these were not covered by the Motor Vehicles laws currently in force. Both the contentions seem to be untenable as motorised automobiles of various makes have met with accidents in Delhi, traffic in the city being what it is. These, too,  should be treated as hazardous but these have not been banned because their running on city roads is covered by the extant law. If the e-rickshaws are not covered by these laws the vehicles could be allowed to ply for a short term within which the executive could be directed to bring them within the ambit of the laws only for the reason that these are beneficial. But no, the ban was extended.

One did not know that a large number of such rickshaws were plying in Delhi. No wonder, as a consequence of the continued ban, the livelihood of the rickshaw pliers is affected. This apart, Delhi today is the most polluted city in the world, having beaten Beijing in the recent past. The e-rickshaws running on battery would have mitigated the air-pollution to some extent. True, Delhi now has auto-rickshaws running on CNG but they are not pollution-free. They are not as green as the e-rickshaws which have zero emission and do not foul up the air. These rickshaws, therefore, could be beneficial for the city’s air and could come in handy for the commuters.

Some have contended that these are not as pollution-free as claimed as they charge their batteries from outlets that are fed by thermal power plants which are highly polluting and produce “dirty power”. But, since there is no source of “clean power” the rickshaw operators would seem to have no other alternative. There is no gainsaying the fact that these rickshaws help in a limited way in controlling air pollution in a highly polluted city by cutting out emissions. As regards the concern expressed in respect of disposal of their batteries, these are mostly recycled and resold to consumers.

The indefinite continuance of the ban on e-rickshaws is therefore not in the larger interests of the people of Delhi. The whole thing seems to have got entangled in the bureaucratic web of rules and legal provisions and those who invested in assembling the
rickshaws have landed up with a product in their hands which the government does not seem to be too keen to clear. Between the executive and the judiciary a beneficial industry is being stifled and the people are being denied its benefits. No wonder investors from all over the world say it is difficult to do business in this country. Is the CNG auto-rickshaws manufacturers’ lobby at work? One wonders!

There are, indeed, laws and laws in the country most of which would seem to be “asses”.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Unlamented demise of India's Planning Commission

Shiv Vishwanathan, an intellectual and a social scientist, in his article on 26th August in the prestigious newspaper The Hindu eulogised the Planning Commission. He is sorry to see it go without any funerary lamentations for its demise. While he may be right but the Commission had in a last few decades been functioning with a disconnect with ground realities. It, in fact, had become more an agency for distribution of largesse to the states than for planning for poverty alleviation, leave alone prosperity of the country.

 It was a relic of Nehruvian Fabian socialist phase of our economy which neither made us socialists nor capitalists. It left us eventually as a pseudo-socialist economy that made rich richer and left the middle classes and the poor where they were – struggling for survival in a regime of escalating prices and rising frustrations. Strangely, the Commission did not even manage to identify the poor. It came up from time to time with some weird figures for identifying the urban and rural poor.

With the Commission’s planners flying high up in the stratosphere making economic models for development that neither enabled the country to prosper nor eliminated widespread poverty in the sixty years of its predominance in economic planning for the country. In 1961 our Economics professors in the National Academy Administration would wax eloquent on how the country was poised for the “take-off” stage. From all evidences, even after more than fifty years the country is yet to take off, with so much poverty and pervasive malnutrition.

 Twenty years later, in 1980 while plying the participants in the advanced course in Public Administration in the Indian Institute of Public Administration with complicated mathematical economic models, Prof. Sukhomoy Chatterji, the then Member of the Planning Commission, was asked whether any provision was made for “Garibi Hatao”, Indira Gandhi’s slogan that swept her to power in 1971, in the economic model he promptly answered in the affirmative and pointed at the addition made in it. “Garibi” persists even thirty years after that, although millions were lifted from poverty after the economy was freed from controls in 1991 –not by courtesy of the Commission.

That the Yojana Bhawan will now not be the haunt of dreamers, econometrists and the unlikely bureaucrat should be a happy augury. For sixty years the country carried on its shoulders a mammoth monolith without much returns. Now that it is gone, it is a good riddance, perhaps a time to celebrate.    

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kashmiri foot-soldiers of Pak ISI

Separatist leader Mirwaise Omar Farukh
In calling off the Secretary level talks with Pakistan the government of India has done what virtually everyone in the country would applaud. Despite protests and flag meetings, the firing from across the border has continued without any let up. A couple of our border guards were killed and the civilian population along the border has been terrorised. They suffered injuries, their houses got bullet-ridden and they are being prevented from going about doing their normal business. Not satisfied with these transgressions the Pakistani High Commissioner invited the “separatist” leaders of Kashmir, allegedly, for consultations and went ahead and met them a few days before the secretaries-level talks scheduled for the 25th August. This the High Commissioner did despite the Indian government asking it not to meet them. Naturally, the Secretary-level meeting for continuance of the long-disrupted dialogue was called off.

One wonders what kind of consultations the High Commissioner conducts with the “separatists” and on what matters. Such meetings are against protocol as also highly improper for the High Commissioner as he thus meets secessionists in the host country. Is it to foment more trouble for disrupting the peace in the Kashmir Valley or to organise violence? Since the Pakistan High Commission chooses to meet only them and not the elected representatives of the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly it clearly tries to promote its interests through them. But they, having a minuscule following, are unable to swing opinion in favour of Pakistan.  It is not known how the meeting would have, as claimed by Pakistan, facilitate the peace process in the Valley when the intentions behind it are not quite honourable. Is Pakistan really interested in peace in Kashmir? Had it been so it would not have kept the LoC hot and pumped in terrorists engaging the Indian security forces almost every day.

All these years the Indian governments have taken a generous view of these “separatists”. They have been allowed to pursue their own respective secessionist persuasions largely unhindered as long as they did not threaten the Indian State’s interests and security. They have been able to organise demonstrations and even indiscriminate strikes affecting normal life and business on the slightest of pretexts. The strikes were largely successful because of the violence that follows non-compliance of their dictat. The Indian government was so soft that it even allowed them to visit Pakistan for discussions with Pakistani leaders. Yasin Malik, Chairman Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, who advocates separation of Kashmir from India, was seen during his last visit even sharing a platform with Jehadi leader and patron of Lashkar e Toyeba, Hafiz Sayeed, who spits venom against India and considers it his enemy and is known to have organised the Mumbai terror attack of 2008. Any other country would have put Yaseen in the jug on return but he was allowed to get back to Kashmir

Obviously, the current dispensation in India is not inclined to take things lightly. It gave a tough message to the Pakistan High Commissioner to either talk to the government of India or talk to the “separatists”. It was made clear that Kashmir was a bilateral issue and no third party could be introduced into the processes of negotiations. Yaseen Malik’s belief that people of Kashmir have a right to be part of any negotiated settlement cuts no ice. The then Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir, on insistence of Indian prime minister Nehru, had to consult the most popular people’s leader Sheikh Abdullah even in those feudal days before deciding to accede to India when the state was under imminent threat of being overrun by the Pakistan Army-backed raiders. The stakes of Kashmiri people were taken into account, therefore, at the very outset and they eventually became Indian citizens. Repeated consultations with every rising generation with harebrained ideas are neither feasible nor necessary. Besides, the negotiations are between two countries; people of the state cannot figure anywhere in the talks. The meet on 25th August, however, did not even have Kashmir on the agenda.

The “separatist” Hurriyat leaders feel that in calling off the talks the government has “sidelined” the soft “Vajpayee approach”. The meetings with the High Commissioner, they said, were aimed at “consolidating the different voices, the way forward and how we can make a breakthrough”. The question, however, is who do they represent apart from themselves? They think their calls for demonstrations and shut-downs have decent response, but, most of the people obey their dictat not voluntarily but out of fear for their lives. None would join their demonstrations or participate in their calls for complete shut-downs if the element of force of a few misdirected goons controlled by the Pakistan Army’s intelligence wing the ISI is taken away from them. A vast majority of Kashmiris desire a peaceful and normal life to carry on their respective activities in a tranquil environment. In election after election they have voted in their representatives in the Legislative Assembly where none of these “separatists” ever registered their presence. 

It had always been felt that by being indulgent towards the “separatists” the Indian government was attempting to strengthen the hands of the civilian government in Pakistan. It was also felt that it would, in all probability, open up roads to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. Unfortunately, it is not so. From what Prem Shankar Jha, a very senior journalist and a one-time intermediary of the government of India with the Hurriyat “separatist” leaders, has written (Op-ed, Times of India, August
Separatist leader of more virulent type, Jeelani
21,2014) it is clear that they are nothing but pawns in the hands of Pakistan’s ISI. One of them had confessed to him while not pursuing the line suggested by Jha that if he and others met the Indian prime minister before meeting the visiting Pakistani prime minister at Delhi (in 2005), he would be killed. Jha has asserted that whoever among them ever talked of return of peace in the Valley or of resolution of the Kashmir problem within the Indian Union had been eliminated by ISI agents.

Despite the affront, the then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, did not oppose the “separatists” meeting the Pakistani Prime Minister. Nonetheless, it is absolutely clear that being foot-soldiers of the ISI, the “separatists” would never allow resolution of the so-called dispute simply because their masters in Pakistan’s ISI do not wish it. They are proxies for it in Kashmir and the High Commissioner gets the directives from it to meet them. Backed as they are by the ISI, they would in no way be able to strengthen the civilian dispensation in Pakistan and if they wished to do so they would just not be allowed.

Having regard to all that has evolved over the years, the tough action of the current Indian government cannot but be praised. It had extended the hand of friendship even as it took office and yet the same has been veritably spurned. A rethink in the matter, however, should only be on its own terms – putting the “separatists” in their own place.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Citizen Journalist - the new kid on the block


While searching for a citizen journalism site I came across the following more than five years blog of mine. I read through it again and found it relevant. Hence, I am taking liberty to re-blog it. Those who happened to have seen it earlier may please excuse me.

I had never imagined that I would ever come anywhere near the field of journalism. Having spent 30-odd years in the government I agreed with the assertions of many of my colleagues that I had, like them, become practically “useless” for all purposes. Destiny, however, seemed to have willed something else for me.

I established base at Bhopal (India) to spend the (post-retirement) home-stretch. With no pre-occupation and a mind still mercifully agile I progressively became conscious of my surroundings. The lack or, in many ways, total absence of civic amenities in this what-could-be-a-beautiful town irked me. With time available in profusion, I resurrected my Silver Reed portable typewriter and hammered away to churn out letters to the editors of local dailies. Some did seem to have impact, a majority did not. From civic issues I slowly graduated to topical, national and environmental issues and dispatched my thoughts to national dailies. That venerable newspaper, The Statesman, highly regarded for its quality of content and language edited by the legendary CR Irani, would publish them, often, lo and behold, the title of my letter figuring as the headline for the “Letters” section. My life seemed to have been made!

Consumed by the obsession to express my views more effectively I took lessons in computing – along with kids old enough to be my grand-children. The computer, with its awesome capabilities, made things far easier. Egged on by my elder brother, I tried my hand at writing articles. Some of them, when finished, appeared good. Soon enough the City Supplement of the local edition of Hindustan Times started carrying my pieces, mostly on civic issues. Even Manuj Features, the erstwhile features agency spawned by the Makhalal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism, accepted my output and disseminated them to its subscribers. I had emerged as a casual columnist.

It was nothing intellectual that I wrote. I only gave expression to my reactions, positive or negative, to issues– local, topical, national or environmental – as an ordinary individual that I thought needed expression, generally, with relevant information culled from various sources. It was neither sycophantic, nor was it in any way “muckraking”. I wrote like a civic-minded non-professional within the given constraints of limited space seeking, as Sarah McClendon (1910-2003), the well-regarded American journalist, once said while claiming to be a citizen journalist, “To give more information to the people …for their own good”. Unknowingly, more than half a dozen years ago I, too, had become, somewhat of a “citizen journalist”, a term which, back then, was still far away from common parlance in this country.

Conceptually speaking, citizen journalism involves, as Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, so-called progenitors of “the golden age of journalism” said, in citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information…The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires". Citizen journalism has, therefore, been variously described as “public” or “participatory” journalism or even “democratic journalism”.

JD Lasica, a leading authority on “social media” and “user created media”, has broadly classified citizen journalism, inter alia, into (1) Audience Participation: with comments, blogs, photos or video footage, (2) Independent news and information websites: such as consumer reports etc., (3) Full-fledged participatory news sites (4) Contributory and collaborative media sites.

Although the idea that the average citizen could engage in journalistic effort has a pretty long history yet the professionals, with their training and corporate resources, seldom yielded any space to amateurs. Avid readers of newspapers would have noticed the progressively shrinking space for even readers’ views. And, of course, a non-professional can hardly ever break through the barrier of professionals who form into a coterie, monopolising news analyses in the corporate media.

However, with the progressive erosion of trust in the mainstream news-media, public journalism gathered strength. Technology gave fillip to it as an ordinary citizen could capture news and news-worthy incidents with photographs or video footage and distribute
them globally. The journalism that was “by the people” began to flourish with the emerging internet and networking technologies. The audience of the conventional media, which so far had been harangued and sometime misled by partisan considerations, took it upon itself to report and project more objective news and views. In South Korea, OhmyNews founded by Oh Yeon-ho in 2000 with the motto "Every Citizen is a Reporter” became popular and even commercially successful. In this context mention must also be made of the Independent Media Centre (a.k.a Indymedia or IMC) that came into existence in 1999 during the anti-WTO protests at Seattle as a participatory network of journalists that reports on socio-political issues. Featuring as a milestone in the history of citizen journalism, Indymedia has pursued open publishing and democratic media process allowing all and sundry to contribute.

Not yet bound by any law, as perhaps professional journalists are in certain countries, the citizen journalists, ideally speaking, have to abide by some basic principles that demand a great degree of rectitude from them. To be purposeful and effective citizen journalism has got to be so. Hence, accuracy of facts, thoroughness, fairness of content and comment, transparency – the principle being “disclose, disclose, disclose” – and independence and non-partisan proclivities are attributes that generally are desirable and mostly insisted upon.

Technology having given a kind of head-start, citizen journalism has come a long way. Growing appreciation of its importance has fostered a mushroom growth of websites world over inviting and hosting content in the shapes of news, comments, blogs, photos or videos from the audience. Even the traditional media organisations – big or small, print or electronic – having gone online, have staff blogs and also invite audience participation in actual journalism. While a new phenomenon of “Mojo” – mobile journos – is on the horizon, using fast and versatile 3G networks, a prospective citizen journo would find umpteen hosts of his choice on a web-search.

Although a recent phenomenon, citizen journalism websites have become popular in India. Here, too, as elsewhere, citizen journalism was the result of “digital era’s democratisation of the media – wide access to powerful, inexpensive tools of media creation and wide access to what people created, via digital networks.” While was launched in 2005, many popular sites like,,, etc. that came up around the same time seem to be flourishing. Their role-model being, they generally report on more serious issues like climate change, health topics, science, politics, environmental or social problems.

Regardless of what the sceptics think citizens’ reportage has gathered nothing but strength. World over – in the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia and South Asia – new start-ups are appearing by the day. Yet credibility of the reportage is what the progress of citizen journalism hinges on. At a conference in Seoul in 2007, hosted by OhmyNews, the hugely successful citizen journalism medium, certain preconditions were set forth for user-created content centring on credibility, trustworthiness, influence and sustainability. Like in traditional media run by trained professionals, that, perhaps, cannot always be ensured.

Besides, the question that is raised often is whether an ordinary citizen can be a reporter. Rory O’Connor of Guardian says why not. “After all, I've been a professional journalist for decades - yet I never took a course in it, received a license for it or got anointed on high. So here's my advice - if you don't like the news, report some of your own.”

I have, for the last few months, been doing just that – reporting to OhmyNews, GroundReport, HumanTimes, merinews, Mynews. The response has been encouraging and experience rewarding.