Citizens Rising : Independent Journalism and the spread of democracy – David Hoffman – Book Review

CitizensRisingGoodreads blurb: From the fall of the Soviet Union to the Arab Spring to today’s continuing conflicts, media have played a decisive role in political affairs across the globe—driving the revolutionary changes shaping today’s new world. This is the first book presenting a comprehensive look at the emergence of media as a primary actor, and not merely an observer, of global affairs.

As founder of Internews, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to information access and independent media, David Hoffman has had a backstage pass to many of the seminal world political upheavals in recent years. In these pages we see how media have been used for good and bad—to trigger genocide, but also to effectively prevent conflict, facilitate free elections, expose corruption, promote nation-build­ing, provide critical information amid natural disasters, and bring about massive social change such as free education and women’s rights. With the rise of digital technology, the power of media to intervene in global affairs is in the hands of ev­eryone—including you. This book examines media’s historic impact and offers a roadmap to the future.


As is the fashion nowadays, I, just like many others around me have more often than not accused the media, especially the television media of overreach on more than one occasion and I am also pretty sure that we have all accused Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai and their ilk of conducting trials by media of various politicians, sports administrators and the like. I personally haven’t had even one good word for media of any form or fashion over the past few years or so, and therefore, when I did pick this book up, I wasn’t quite prepared for what hit me.

Using examples from all over the world; starting with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), the birth of independent media in new Russia in Moscow, to examples of how independent radio stations brought forth a new found freedom for youngsters in Afghanistan to citing examples of how dictators such as Eduard Schverdnadze of Georgia and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan bit off more than they could chew by opening up independent media in their countries, the first part of this book chronicles some memorable incidents from the not so recent past as to how independent media made an indelible contribution in the growth of democracy almost all over the world.

Part 2 of the book primarily deals with some examples of how media has been effectively used as well as abused by politicians and governments around the world. What stood out in this part of the book was how media persons effectively harnessed the power of local and international media in leading humanitarian and rescue efforts in tsunami and earthquake affected areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Haiti. How various independent agencies, foreign press correspondents and various media agencies coordinated to ensure that the attention of the entire world was focused on these various tragedies and the impact it had on subsequent rescue and rehabilitation efforts made for good reading.

The final part of the book deals with how new media such as Twitter and Facebook played important roles in the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings which we are all familiar with. The story of the Egyptian revolution and how it was all sparked off by one normal person starting off a Facebook page anonymously to protest the death of his friend ended up snowballing into the Tahrir Square uprising made for some riveting reading and truly highlighted the power of social media networks today.

The last chapter of the book is quite interesting in the sense that it deals with how the people of China despite being closed off to the rest of the world with press and internet censorship has managed to build quite an overwhelming strong online presence domestically using home-grown alternatives and how these movements have culminated in giving persistent headaches to the ruling Communist Party by highlighting corruption, nepotism and various other relevant issues prevalent in today’s China.

In a nutshell, this book makes for really interesting reading, albeit in an unconventional sense. It is a must read for anybody who is interested in figuring out what it is that makes the media and 24-hrs news channels tick, and to truly understand and learn from incidents all over the world as to how to effectively and efficiently use media for the greater good of the greater number of people.

Please click on the links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] and Amazon [Link].


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an unbiased review.