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Alumni News

News from and about MPI Alumni

Hate Speech and Social Media in Africa

Hate Speech and Social Media in Africa

Introduction

The world today is being defined by the many avenues for free expression beyond what could have even been imagined just 15 years ago. It has become a more open space with a hugely reduced room for privacy, especially with the rise of social media and networking, which has transformed the way individuals, groups, and society communicate. 

While social media has served as a platform for the creation of ideas and where opinions are influenced, expressed, and shaped, it has also become the prime carrier of fake news, conspiracy theories, and a tool for hate crimes and hate speech anywhere in the world, overtaking the traditional propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation machines. In Africa, social media has contributed to bringing changes, such as the Arab Spring and media swings in elections in West Africa, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya. The power of social media in Africa is apparent in the instability in Ethiopia and in mobilizing the spectacular rallies that resulted in the toppling of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. It has also been part of the constant local and national conflict in South Sudan. 

Social media: fighting hate speech, discrimination, and promoting peace

Social media: fighting hate speech, discrimination, and promoting peace

Social media has come to be one of the most powerful tools for disseminating news, events, advocacies, celebrations, and many other issues concerning human lives in the 21st century. However, despite its advantages, it is also used to disseminate hate speech and to promote fanatic ideologies and issues not corresponding with peaceful cultures and positive moral values within communities. To that end, it paves the ground for humiliation, deepening ethnic division, and dissemination of false and unconfirmed news that leads to fear and harassment.

In my organization, social media is widely used mainly for press statements and updates on activities—a tool for spreading information to a wider community about what our organization is doing. Whenever there is a public report, especially ones related to human rights, or statements on issues related to peace or human rights, or campaigns on the elimination of violence against women, key messages are posted through social media. These posts include important points reflecting on why people should be concerned and the due responsibility of the government to promote and protect human rights, including its responsibility as a member of the international community and conventions. Such postings are done very carefully to avoid any hatred or misinformation. It is also being used as an advocacy tool, reflecting the stand of the organization for democratic values when it faces huge resistance.

CALAMANSI

CALAMANSI

(1)
When she got there the first time a decade ago
She didn’t like those small fruits with the taste quite sour
She saw everyone’s meal with that tiny citrus fruits they had with soy sauce
They’re fond of that, like they enjoy the Ngapi she used to eat
But she only loves its aroma as she was not used to eating it

When she got there a second time, and the following times
She started liking its juice, although it is strongly sour
She enjoyed it like everyone there since then,
which is lovely Kalamansi
She loves its tang and She loves its smell now

Rogelio "Loloy" Cabiladas: 1955 – 2021

Rogelio "Loloy" Cabiladas: 1955 – 2021

Rogelio "Loloy" Cabiladas on the far right in his class photo.

We at MPI are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and early death of MPI alumnus Rogelio "Loloy" Cabiladas. He participated in MPI's 2005 Annual Peacebuilding Training and was an active leader in his Higaunon indigenous community. At the time of the training, Loloy was chairperson of the Dalipuga Barangay Council and City Legal Office – Barangay Mediation Panel/Taskforces on Environment and Political Boundary.

Seeing the Stars in the Darkness

Seeing the Stars in the Darkness

According to CIVICUS, a global society alliance that monitors the status of civic space worldwide, only three percent of the world’s population lives in countries where basic civic freedoms are respected: the freedom of association, and the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.1 The rest struggle with increasing repression and intimidation from both state and non-state actors. The passage of laws that restrict and punish critical voices, the barrage of defamation leveled against journalists, the constant threats of bodily harm experienced by human rights activists, and the fear of getting labeled as terrorist and jailed are just some of the forms repression takes across many of these societies.

Indeed, there is growing consensus that the world is taking a totalitarian turn. We are seeing it unfold on our screen, over media reports, on Twitter and various social media feeds, if not on our very own doorstep. We have seen the harrowing images in Afghanistan of masses of people flocking to the airport in search of safety. At MPI, we have heard distressing accounts from our colleagues and friends, Afghan alumni, struggling to find refuge amidst this chaos and uncertainty and the looming fear of danger. This is just the latest in a string of societal and political repression and upheaval that we bear witness to even as we persist in our peacebuilding work in our own sphere of influence.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around.” And yet, we know that in the midst of the most devastating conflict and violence, hope can be found and good seeds are still being planted. As King would later on add, “but I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”2 While it is true that our capacity to pursue and work for justice and peace appears to be shrinking and getting increasingly dangerous, it is also true that many peacebuilders remain steadfast on the journey.

In the second issue for 2021 of MPI’s Alumni Newsletter, we offer you stories of the various ways our alumni navigate the contested territory of peacebuilding in their own lives and in the lives of those with whom they closely work. In this age of censorship, how can we remain true to our task as peacebuilders to speak truth to power and promote dialogue when the repercussions on our personal safety are immense? This is a dilemma that our alumna in Thailand explores. In another story, we hear the voices of two Indigenous young women from the Philippines expressing their belief in their agency to promote positive change in their generation. In Syria, we learned how peace activists are relearning bottom-up approaches to peace and bravely providing creative solutions to ongoing conflict and violence in their midst. And lastly, we have an insightful reflection from our alumnus in Cameroon of the ways the pandemic impacted peace work on the ground and how Cameroonian civil society is responding to these difficulties with persistence and unity.

We hope these four stories remind you that while there may be darkness, it is not absolute. In our own way, we can be torchbearers. We can be the stars in the night.

  1. Executive Summary, CIVICUS 2020 Report: SOCS2020_Executive_Summary_en.pdf (civicus.org)
  2. Quote taken from I’ve Been to the Mountaintop Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on the eve of his assassination. Accessed here: The Last Speech of Martin Luther King: ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ – The Full Text (obrag.org)

 

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