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Published in both Arabic and English, the online edition appeared to have enormous potential to fulfil the international part of al-Muajaha's mission statement: 'to provide a voice [for the Iraqi people] that can reach the world'. (1) It was an archetypal example of the utopian cyberspace; the Internet as a democratic tool; a global forum in which the many voices of 'liberated' Iraq could be heard equally. However, just as early visions of Western cyber-culture were thwarted by unforeseeable complications, (2) the shape of Iraq's web presence has taken an unexpected form. Weblogs (or blogs)--online diaries posted by individuals or small groups--have flourished in Iraq, while al-Muajaha has all but collapsed. Bloggers like Salam Pax (3) of Where is Raed? (4) and others, have attracted global attention with their regularly updated commentaries and personal anecdotes, while interest from Iraqis in almuajaha.com (5) has been diluted to the point where the site is now as much a voice for the pro-invasion far-right of North America, as it is for the multiplicity of Iraqi views it was designed to represent. What follows is a description and analysis of the shortcomings of the English-language almuajaha.com, and an attempt to explain the comparative success of Iraqi blogs. It does not pertain to the Arabic language web site, or the print version of al-Muajaha, which may prove a significant player in the formation of a new Iraq, if it can overcome its recent financial problems. (6)
Firstly, it is worth establishing exactly what has gone wrong at almuajaha. com. The recent technical problems with the site have been resolved, however the more lasting issues are in the content. While many successful Internet news sites publish updates every few hours, visitors to almuajaha. corn have often had to wait several weeks for a new article.
Pax describes the editors of al-Muajaha as 'very young Iraqis who are trying to get a newspaper running while they get their exams done'. They are living in a war zone, and negotiating what is probably a rapidly changing social environment. The possible explanations for their not spending time on the online publication are myriad. For example, according to Majid Jaarer, the main editor of the online edition, a fellow editor was shot in the leg while reporting on a protest in 2003. (7) But these kinds of reasons alone are not enough to explain the decline in publication. As the proliferation of Iraqi blogs demonstrates, other Iraqis are finding plenty of time and access to post elsewhere. Possible reasons for this shift will be explored later.
The other source of news on the site is the 'Newswire', an Internet forum where anybody can post articles and responses. A brief look at the posting since the site …