Effect Measure

Tripoli Six and the blogosphere

The campaign in the blogosphere to gain justice for the Tripoli 6 (see here, here and here) has gained another powerful resource for those wishing to know more and particularly, to see its human face. In 2003 film maker Mickey Grant of Dallas made a stunning documentary, Infection whose trailer we linked on an earlier post. He has now made the entire 1 hour 22 minute film available entirely free via streaming video (note: there is a 30 second test pattern at the beginning and some titles; this is a raw upload, but the link works. Give it a minute). Nature senior correspondent Declan Butler engineered this and notes on his blog:

It’s the first time Mickey has put one of his films on the Internet for free, as he has to make a living from his documentaries. “I made a decision to put it on for free, with the hope that it might get some immediate attention and possibly bring some light on the horrible plight of the nurses,” says Grant.

Declan has also been keeping a tally of blog posting on his science social bookmarking site at Connotea. So far more than 110 posts and counting from across the blogosphere. The net’s reaction is being acknowledged by Nature (the world’s premier science journal) in a news story:

Bloggers have rallied around a call from a humanitarian lawyers’ organization for greater international pressure to free six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya on charges of deliberately infecting over 400 children with HIV.

The lawyers’ call, relayed by Nature in an editorial on 21 September (see (see ‘Libya’s travesty’)), has since prompted at least 100 blog postings on the medical workers’ case, with links to more detailed information. Some have also started letter-writing campaigns to politicians.

The movement, which began primarily with science bloggers, spread over the weekend to some of major US political blogs, including several posts on the Daily Kos, which is the world’s most highly-ranked political blog according to the Technorati blog search engine, and has around half a million readers daily. The Daily Kos articles in turn have been linked to by more conservative blogs such as Instapundit.

“The penetration of this story in the science blogging world has been phenomenal,” says ‘Revere’, a contributor to the blog Effect Measure, which is run by anonymous senior US epidemiologists.

The story’s spread to both left and right-leaning political blogs is “significant”, says Revere, as it suggests that the issue could gain non-partisan support in the United States.


The bloggers’ response this week has helped, if only by raising public awareness, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer. The mainstream media has not generated sustained attention to the case because it has gone on for so long, he says, adding that perhaps the blogosphere, with less need for hard news angles, may “provide a good relay” for information on the case.

Bloggers have launched letter-writing campaigns to both political representatives in their own countries and to the Libyan authorities, publishing lists of relevant addresses and emails to help their readers find the correct target for their appeal. “The goal, now, is to push — and push hard — for an independent scientific panel to review the genetic evidence,” says Revere.


“It’s always difficulty to quantify the impact of such campaigns,” says Alexiev, “but yes, they must absolutely continue, it can make a difference.”

“There’s no good way to know the impact,” agrees DemFromCT, the pseudonym of one of the editors of the Daily Kos. “In this case, there’s so much international politics it’s impossible to tell whether it will help enough. But I do think the effort matters, and is important to do.” (Nature)

As for the role of the blogosphere, The Next Hurrah’s DemFromCT should have the last word:

Nice, but in the end, it’s about the Tripoli 6 and not about us. (The Next Hurrah)