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Forbidden Voices Female bloggers fight for freedom of speech

Forbidden Voices’: Female bloggers fight for
By Hazel Pfeifer, CNN
May 3, 2013 — Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)

Video link:

– “Forbidden Voices” follows lives of female bloggers around
– Female dissident bloggers often suffer , detainment by
repressive regimes
– Film follows Iran’s Farnaz Seifi, Cuba’s Yoani Sanchez, ’s Zeng

(CNN) — Farnaz Seifi was arrested as she waited to fly out of a Tehran
in 2007. Her crime? A calling for women’s equality in the
Islamic Republic of Iran.

Originally on her way to a cyber-journalism workshop in India, Seifi,
then in her mid-twenties, was transferred to Tehran’s notorious Evin
and at midnight, the interrogation began. According to the
authorities, says Seifi, challenging the inequality and injustice that
women face in Iran was “acting against national security and being a spy
for western countries.”

Seifi is one of three women featured in a new documentary, “Forbidden
Voices,” that follows the lives of female dissident bloggers across the

These women pay a high price for their blogs — suffering violence,
harassment and detainment by some of the world’s most repressive regimes.
Cuban hits the road

“They don’t use political propaganda, they don’t make speeches, they
don’t try to change things really aggressively — they are trying to
start a dialogue and I think this is why the world started noticing
them,” said Barbara Miller, director of “Forbidden Voices,” who was
struck by the personal nature of blogging and how it allows ordinary
people to talk about the difficulties they face. “I think this is a way
that women tell stories and how women try to change the world.”

Friday marks World Press Day, and this year the is emphasis is
on securing freedom of in all media, including a free and
open internet — something Seifi can identify with.

She told CNN: “In countries like my country, you learn to censor
yourself from a very early age and you become good at censoring
yourself, unfortunately. The Islamic Republic of Iran makes each of us
an example of it because we also censor each other.”

“It’s sad when one day you figure out that you want freedom so badly but
you are also part of the censoring system.”

After a series of interrogations and heavy censorship of her blog by the
Iranian authorities, Seifi left Iran in 2007 and now lives in Germany.
As a women’s activist and blogger means it’s unlikely she will return
home while the current Iranian regime is in power. And for her family’s
safety she now blogs anonymously.

Cuba’s Yoani Sanchez, perhaps the most well-known of the three female
bloggers featured in Miller’s film, continues to speak out against the
Castro government on her blog, “Generación Y,” which receives millions
of hits each month. She was finally granted a passport by Cuban
authorities in January after 20 failed applications, and her recent high
profile trip to the U.S., where she visited the White House, has turned
the media spotlight on the daily struggle of many in communist Cuba.

But others remain trapped. Some of the film’s most sinister scenes show
Chinese blogger Zeng Jinyan under house arrest in Beijing, harassed by
security officials outside her apartment as she tries to leave. When her
husband, and environmental activist Hu Jia, is sentenced to over
three years in prison in 2008, she was is left alone and isolated with
their baby daughter and her blog, wondering if they will ever be free.
Since then, her blog has been censored in China.

In countries where the state has a monopoly on information, blogging has
come into its own as a tool for change and an outlet for sharing
stories, according to Miller. “The governments really fear these women.
I mean, they are women, talking about their daily lives but the
governments fear that they are so outspoken, that they are talking about
what’s really happening in their countries”.

A refusal to be censored unites these women across cultures and
continents, as they use their blogs to connect with the world outside of
the regime. For Miller, the reaction of the authorities is perhaps the
strongest indication of the strength of their individual voices.

“I think blogging is an extremely powerful tool, you can reach the whole
world with one voice.”

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