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Why blogging matters: A message from Salil Shetty for Blog Action Day 2013

Salil Shetty

On 16 October, Blog Action Day 2013 will bring together thousands of bloggers worldwide, around one topic: human rights. Find out how you can join the chorus! And read this quick Q&A with Amnesty’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, about what inspired him to become a human rights activist and why blogging matters.

Why is blogging and expressing your views freely online important, and why is this a human rights issue?
Salil Shetty: Freedom of expression is a core human right. Blogging and freedom online brings many new opportunities – but many challenges from repressive governments, too. Online and offline, the core issue is the same – with the key difference that blogging can reach endlessly more readers than old-fashioned technology allowed. Amnesty has fought for the rights of print and electronic media, and individual freedom of expression, for over 50 years now. Our fight for people to use mobile phones and the internet to express their opinions is just an extension of that campaigning.

Why did you become a human rights activist?
Salil Shetty: When I was 15 years old and in school in Bangalore, South India, the then Prime Minister of India suspended all civil and political rights by declaring a ‘state of emergency’. I have seen and experienced human rights violations from my early days growing up in a country with deep poverty, inequality and injustice, particularly against women, lower castes, indigenous people and minorities. Both my parents were actively involved in the fight for justice and human rights. I joined the students' movement in university and linked up with several other human rights struggles and organisations.

What inspires you most about your work?
Salil Shetty: The list is too long. It is an extraordinary privilege to be playing a leadership role in the human rights movement – which has impact every single day. Amnesty’s achievements at the local, national, regional and global levels have been incredible – like the creation earlier this year of an Arms Trade Treaty. The sceptics said the treaty was unachievable – but with the help of our millions of members around the world campaigning for two decades, we got there in the end. That was a fantastic moment. The meetings with individuals whose lives have been touched by Amnesty – former prisoners of conscience, and many others – are always inspiring too.

Some ideas for how you can get involved in Blog Action Day:
Blog about why you care about injustices that happen to other people. What inspires you to take action on their behalf? Why do human rights matter? Most people in the world have experienced injustice at some point in their lives. These experiences can help us empathise with bad things that happen to other people. When we start to take those injustices personally, we start wanting to do something to change things. So sharing your own journey towards becoming a human rights activist could be really powerful.

Or blog about an injustice that’s happened to somebody else. Right now, Amnesty is campaigning for a new law to stop people in Nairobi’s poorest communities being kicked out of their homes with no warning. Read their stories (you can download our content and promote it to your own networks) and support them by signing this petition.

This is your chance to get your blog noticed! Because we will…
• track all tweets using #BAD13 and @AmnestyOnline from now onwards
• retweet good blogs to our 170,000+ followers from @amnestyonline
• publish these blogs and tweets on our very own #BAD13 Storify on 16 October.
• publish three powerful Blog Action Day posts on Livewire before the end of 2013 (remember to tweet it using #BAD13 and @amnestyonline).