PCMLP Panels at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa

PCMLP will have a strong presence at the upcoming Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa to be hosted in Johannesburg, September 26-28th.  We will be organizing panels on Innovation in Somalia, participating on Internet policymaking panels, and Dr Gagliardone will have a book launch for his recent publication The Politics of Technology in Africa, published by CUP. Tickets are free and available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/forum-on-internet-freedom-in-africa-2017-fifafrica17-tickets-35750264002

Nicole Stremlau awarded an ERC grant for ConflictNet

Nicole Stremlau has been awarded a 1.5 million euro grant from the European Research Council for research on the Politics and Practice of Social Media in Conflict. This project starts in August 2017 and will run for 5 years.  A brief summary follows:

Over the next five years an unprecedented number of initiatives will coalesce, contributing to an extension of the reach of the Internet to the world’s most remote regions. While previous efforts to expand Internet access have focused on urban areas, current initiatives are leveraging new technologies from drones to satellites to provide affordable access to the worlds poorest, many of whom are in Africa and live in regions where the state is weak and there is protracted violent conflict. Current debates have largely focused on technical issues of improving access, or assumed ways that technology will help ‘liberate’ populations or improve governance. This project focuses on a key puzzle that is often overlooked: How does increased access to social media affect the balance between peace-building efforts and attempts perpetuate violence in conflict-affected communities?

With a focus on Africa (and particularly on religious and political violence in Eastern Africa), this project will investigate the relationship between social media and conflict through three research questions at the macro, meso and micro level: how are social media altering the transnational dimensions of conflict and peacebuilding? How are public authorities reacting to, and appropriating, social media to either encourage violence or promote peace? And in what ways are social media changing the way people experience, participate in, or respond to violent conflict? It will examine these questions in the context of dangerous speech online; the exit and entry of individuals to conflict; the tactics and strategies actors adopt to shape the Internet; and how governance actors are leveraging social media in conflict-affected communities.

Article on New Media and Governance in Conflict published in Third World Quarterly

Gianluca Iazzolino and Nicole Stremlau have recently published an article looking at new media and governance in conflict affected regions in the Third World Quarterly. This publication draws from the Media, Conflict and Democratization project (MeCoDEM) that PCMLP has been a part of for the last three years.  50 free prints of the article are currently available from Third World Quarterly at this link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/e69cUAgvazANKxbXzST5/full

Now Accepting Applications: Annenberg-Oxford Media Summer Institute

The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Programme for Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford are pleased to invite applications to the 19th annual Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute, to be held from Monday, June 26 to Friday, July 7, 2017 at the University of Oxford.

For eighteen years, the Institute has brought together top early career communications scholars, media lawyers and regulators, human rights activists, and policymakers from countries around the world to discuss the effects of technology and policy from a global and multidisciplinary perspective. The Summer Institute provides participants with an intensive two week curriculum that combines expert instruction from media policymakers and scholars with hands-on activities such as stakeholder mapping, policy analysis, group case studies, and participant presentations.

The 2017 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute seeks applicants whose research or work is related to the relationship between international media laws and national jurisdictions, online censorship and surveillance, media activism and political change, the impact of social media on the public sphere, the role of corporations in media governance, strategic communications and propaganda, media access issues, online extremism and hate speech, net neutrality, and global internet governance processes. Applications are encouraged from students studying communication, sociology, political science, international relations, information studies, and related disciplines. Practitioners working in media, law, policy, regulation, and technology are also encouraged to apply.

The Institute endeavors to broaden and expand the pool of talented young scholars engaged in media studies and to connect these individuals to elite scholars and practitioners from around the world. The main goals of the program are to facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and build spaces for collaboration between scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. The Institute’s alumni are a vibrant group who continue to engage in the program, collaborate through network ties, and have become leaders at the top national and international nonprofits, advocacy organizations, government agencies, corporations, and academic institutions. Past institutes have included participants from India, Kenya, Brazil, the Philippines, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, China, Italy, Israel, Colombia, Iran, Myanmar, South Sudan, Nigeria, as well as 89 other countries.

The application for the 2017 Summer Institute is now open. Applicants can make an account and apply now via our online portal.  The deadline for all applications is Monday April 3, 2017 at 5:00PM EST. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis before the deadline, so please submit as soon as possible. Several partial scholarships are available to top applicants.

Communicating in Troubled Times: A Conversation on Media and Democracy Ahead of Kenya’s 2017 Elections

The way media interacts with political and civil society actors frames critical moments in the political history of a country, such as contested elections or controversial electoral campaigns. In the wake of Kenya’s 2007 elections and the ensuing crisis, society blamed mainstream media outlets for feeding the violence. A journalist, Joshua Arap Sang, was indicted for incitement by the International Criminal Court. A new narrative emerged, redefining the role and responsibility of the media in political coverage during the 2013 general elections.

On 24 August 2016, as part of the MeCODEM project, the Rift Valley Forum and the University of Oxford brought together politicians, journalists, civil society activists and academics to discuss the nexus of media, civil society and politics in the context of the 2013 political elections and the 2014 anti-terror operation Usalama Watch. The full-day workshop included three panels that reflected on what went right and what went wrong during these critical events that tested the resilience of Kenyan democracy. The discussion also sought to offer insights and food for thought ahead of 2017 elections by identifying best practices and highlighting critical issues.

Panel 1: Journalist Ethics and Practices

Hamza Egal (Blogger and human rights activist who initiated the campaign #KenyaImNotaTerrorist)

Patrick Gathara (Political blogger/cartoonist)

Buraan Cade (Founder of Eastleighwood Youth Forum)

John Sibi Okumu (Journalist, Media and Comunication Consultant)

Gianluca Iazzolino (Mecodem Researcher, University of Oxford)

Panel 2: Role of Activists and Civil Society Organisations

Atieno Ndomo (Social policy and development analyst)

Abubakar Said (URAIA)

Kyalo Mwengi (National Cohesion and Integration Commission)

Shukri Islow (Gender and youth activist)

Abdi Yussuf (Leader Somali Bantu in Eastleigh)

Jacinta Maweu (Mecodem Researcher and Lecturer, University of Nairobi)


Panel 3: Political Authorities Communication Practices in Conflict

Hon. Yusuf Hassan Abdi (MP, Kamukunji)

Samson Omondi (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights)

Tony Mochama (Journalist, Writer-Standard Newspaper)

Bernard Mulwa (Tumalize Umaskini Trust)

Tom Wolf (IPSOS)

Nicole Stremlau (Head of PCMLP and Mecodem Researcher, University of Oxford)

Mechachal – Final Report Released

We are delighted to announce the launch of the final report of the Mechachal project, one of first academic studies to contextually examine how hate speech emerges and disseminates in social media.

A short summary of the findings can be found here (6 pages)

The full report can be accessed here (104 pages)

Focusing on Ethiopia, and in collaboration with Addis Ababa University, the research team examined thousands of comments made by Ethiopians on Facebook during four months around the time of the country’s general election. Hate speech’ –defined as statements to incite others to discriminate or act against individuals or groups on grounds of their ethnicity, nationality, religion or gender – was found in just 0.7% of overall statements in the representative sample. The paper says the findings may have wide implications for the many countries trying to address growing concerns about the role played by social media in promoting radicalisation or violence.

Ethiopia represented an exceptional case study because of its distinct languages, which allowed the research team to gain a realistic sample of the overall online debates focused on one country. The research team analysed Facebook statements made by Ethiopians, both in their homeland and abroad, in the run-up to and just after the general election on 24 May 2015. Fans or followers, rather than people with any real influence online, were found to be mainly responsible for the violent or aggressive speech that appeared on Facebook pages in the sample.

It appears these individuals use Facebook to vent their anger against more powerful sections of society. Around 18% of total comments in the sample were written by fans or followers compared with 11% of comments made by highly influential speakers (the owners of web pages). One fifth (21.8%) of hostile comments were grounded in political differences, only slightly higher than the overall average of 21.4% of all conversations containing hostile comments. Religion and ethnicity provoked fewer hostile comments (10% and 14% of overall comments in sample respectively).

Price Media Law International Rounds Results Out

We are delighted to announce the results of the 2016 International Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition. Singapore Management University narrowly defeated Jindal Global Law School from India in an exciting finals round. The competition brought together dozens of teams, many of which successfully competed in regional rounds. The full results can be found on the Price Moot Court website here.  Join us next year for the 10th year anniversary!!

New Article on Constitution-making, Media and the Politics of Participation in Somalia

  • Abstract: The United Nations-led constitution-making process, while highly controversial, has sought to create an opening to help Somalia transition to a new phase in its political development. This article considers the structural features, problems, and opportunities of the process, particularly in the context of debates over external interventions and state sovereignty. It also addresses an area that is often overlooked during constitution-making: the role of media and communications in advancing narratives that not only shape perceptions, but also define the scope of the debate. International actors have worked to promote legitimating narratives, emphasizing certain aspects and values with a focus on the constitution being ‘Somali-owned’. This article shows how local and private media treated and reshaped these emphases and priorities. At this stage it is not possible to conclude whether efforts to “sell” the constitution have generated greater legitimacy, but what is clear is that the narratives that have dominated public discourse have been focused on participation and politicking, reflecting underlying concerns about which groups will have access to state resources, as well as responding to the interventions by international actors. This emphasis has obscured the role of local legal cultures and previous experiences with grassroots constitution-making processes and reconciliation in the Somali territories that might allow for the re-imagining of the nation.

Mechachal Report 2 Released: Discussing Politics and Social Media in Ethiopia

We are delighted to announce the launch of the second report of the Mechachal project, which explores the nature and significance online debates in Ethiopia.

The report examines how social media have been used in the build up of the 2015 elections, highlighting how different parties, as well as the general public, have engaged in electoral politics online. Contrary to expectations, and to what had been the case in other electoral contests in Africa, as the voting day drew nearer, the tone of the debate became less, rather than more, antagonistic. This result may also be due to the little expectations the elections would have brought any significant change in the political landscape.

The second part of the report explores how an historical event, the Battle of Adwa fought in 1896 against the Italian invasion, and which became a symbol of African resistance against colonialism, was remembered and discussed in social media. The analysis highlighted the deep-rooted tensions and antagonism in a multi-ethnic society. Adwa triggered the reactivation of fault-lines such as the divide between Northerners and Southerners, as well as between Amhara and Tigrayans. While antagonistic statements remained a minority, their proportion increased, when compared with average conversations on Facebook. Also, despite that Facebook allows for a plurality of voices to coexist, this does not appear to have led to greater efforts towards understanding competing claims and interpretations. On the contrary, historical memory was often bent to serve existing ideological positions.


From Research to Practice: Bingham Centre Webcast

PCMLP recently participated in a live webcast organised by the Bingham Centre on how to convert academic research to practice. The event brought together a diverse group of speakers from the Overseas Development Institute, the UK Department for International Development, the World Bank and the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre.  PCMLP’s Nicole Stremlau spoke on challenges of using research to inform policy in Africa. The webcast is available to download on the Bingham Centre’s website here.