Bush talks with international bloggers

In recognition of Human Rights Day, President Bush speaks in support of using blogs to promote democracy.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon

The president-elect has been showing off his Web savvy on Change.gov, but George Bush demonstrated Wednesday he also advocates using the Internet to facilitate democracy.

President Bush, in recognition of Human Rights Day, met with bloggers from Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela at the White House and via video teleconference to discuss blogging in favor of democratic change.

The administration has supported pro-democracy new media efforts through programs like the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent group responsible for all U.S. government and government-sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting. The BBG collects reports from citizen journalists with cell phones, and it sends out news reports via text messaging and targeted e-mails, encouraging citizens in countries with oppressive censorship to "join the information revolution," according to the White House. Bush increased funding for BBG from $441 million in 2001 to $670 million in 2008.

The State Department has also taken to promoting democracy via the Internet with a Democracy Video Challenge, a contest to produce a short video that completes the phrase "Democracy is..." Seven winners from six different regions of the world will be announced in June 2009, and their films will be shown in New York, Washington, and Hollywood.

Last year, The Washington Post reported the State Department has a three-person "digital outreach team" that posts entries in Arabic on influential Arabic blogs to promote moderate views of Islam.