Posts By Jed Miller

The scene appeared normal: a small house by a pond, with occasional traffic passing, mostly trucks and laborers from the work site up the road. But Gregor MacLennan was focused on the out of place details. "A sheen of oil floating on the top" of the pond, he recalls, "the gas flare roaring over the trees, and the only source of water trickling out of the hillside with the smell of crude."

MacLennan, the coder behind Digital Democracy's new ClearWater map, did not start out as a techie. As an environmental activist, he has spent more than ten years working in the Amazon Basin, studying the harmful effects of contamination from oil driling.

files_in_gyumri_300.jpgAn aspiring government watchdog in Armenia faces an uphill battle. Weak safeguards against corruption and a government-dominated media have led to widespread distrust of elected officials and most news outlets. A recent Open Society Foundations report cites the country for "lack of independence of regulatory institutions, non-transparent media ownership," and a slow-developing media sector.

Levon Barseghyan, activist and founder of the Journalists Club Asparez, says mainstream media has so little credibility that Armenians watch state TV using "a vice versa approach."

Asparez (or "Arena") hosts one of the country's top 10 news web sites, Asparez.am. To foster public knowledge and government accountability, they are also tracking public funding to schools and regional governments, then posting and charting the results online at PublicData.am.

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