Bloggers Responsibility and ethical use of online freedom in the election period

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Yesterday BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) held a workshop on Bloggers Responsibility and ethical use of online freedom in the election period at the I-HUB. The sessions included freedom of expression and the internet, Regulation of Bloggers and Citizen Journalists, Internet communication surveillance and the way forward on internet communication surveillance. Sadly I arrived late so I missed most of the presentation by Kagonya Awori from UMATI on how they monitor online hate speech in Kenya.

Stephanie Muchai of Article 19 Kenya took us through Freedom of expression and the internet and the regulation of Bloggers and Citizen Journalist. She was kind enough to give us her PowerPoint presentations. They include a lot of information so I will not repeat what she said. Here are the documents.  BAKE Freedom of Expression presentation  & BAKE Online Freedoms Presentation Grace Mutungu an Advocate and member of Kenya IGF (Internet Governance Forum) took us through internet communications surveillance

A few points stuck with me,

It is important for us as bloggers or social media users to be responsible in how we communicate on the internet. One of the things we should not be doing is retweeting hateful messages that others spread out. We should be responsible and not give credibility to something that is hateful.

As bloggers it is our responsibly to regulate ourselves before the government steps in. Yes we have the right to freedom of expression but that does not mean we should use this freedom to defame others or to create content that can be considered as hate speech.

We should preach peace in our tweets, FB posts, or social media posts. There are people who are watching out (surveillance) to see if there are things that stand out as hate speech.

We had issues with what the basis of social media monitoring was. The big question is who monitors the monitors?

Can we as bloggers be considered as journalists and if we are, do we have to abide by the laws that govern journalists? An issue under this was how journalists are allowed to protect their sources of information. This is not applicable to bloggers. But if we were classified as journalists it would apply.

We had a discussion on whether there should be a set of rules or guidelines for bloggers about what to write about or not write about. This was hotly debated. Some say that everybody should be allowed to write what they want and if it is defamatory or hate speech then they can face the law. Others were for the idea that there should be ethics imposed on bloggers about what they should or should not write about.

A few important points to note from Stephanie Muchai’s presentation on Freedom of Expression areas to note for bloggers and citizen journalists

In Kenya, as in many other countries, the same restrictions to speech that apply offline apply online.

It is well established that public figures voluntarily place themselves in a position that invites close scrutiny, whereas private citizens who have not entered public life do not relinquish their interest in protecting their reputation. In addition, public figures have greater access to the means to publicly counteract false statements about them.

Bloggers and citizen journalists LIMITING HARMFUL AND HATE SPEECH in the election period

 Don’t reproduce or give bigger audience to such speech! Stop RT’s and other forms of dissemination…even just FYI ones!
 Dishonour the speaker and their views/attitudes
 Highlight and trend alternative sources of information and voices
 Trend new/counter ideas or attitudes
 Start/be engaged in online conversations searching for solutions
 Understand that there are no bare facts and that people know how to create facts for journalists to report to influence the public’s view – reflect this in your posts
 Try and present as many views as possible Citizen Journalists and Bloggers need to begin to demonstrate self regulation while exercising their freedom of expression
 Capacity build the online community on limitations to freedom of expression
 Promote a culture which while embracing plurality of views (including critical etc) does not embrace or tolerate advocacy to hatred, hostility or violence

A few tweets from participants at the event.

Naomi Mutua ‏@AKenyanGirl
What is #Article19? http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/5058.html … http://yfrog.com/nyaxbgp

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
What is the basis of blogger targeting/monitoring in Kenya? Are we prejudicing ourselves through ignorance of monitoring systems? #Article19

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Having an interesting debate on what statements can be considered defamatory. Can it be regulated? #OnlineFreedom #Article19

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
Discussion on #Defamation. Very interesting. @bake_ke workshop on #Article19 Defending freedom of expression and information. #FB

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Defamation should be decriminalized&remain a civil matter. It hampers freedom of expression as it leads to over self regulation #Article19

Naomi Mutua ‏@AKenyanGirl
How do we as bloggers and citizen journalists do to limit hurtful and hateful speech during elections #Article19

Martin Gicheru™ ‏@martingicheru
RT “@AKenyanGirl C)start or engage in online convos searching for solutions(less talk, more action!)stop complaining,act positively #Article19”

Martin Gicheru™ ‏@martingicheru
RT “@mwendesusu The online Kenyan community should demonstrate self-regulation or the government will have to regulate us. #Article19”

Naomi Mutua ‏@AKenyanGirl
regulation of bloggers and citizen journalists…what are our rights as citizen journalists and bloggers? #Article19

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Insulting someone isn’t hate speech. The main element of hate speech is incitement to violence. #Article19

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Are bloggers journalists? Journalists have certain responsibilities and protection. Should that be imposed on bloggers? #Article19

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
This issue of #HateSpeech could hinder the creativity In Kenya, taking it too far especially Online…#BAKETraining

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
The provision on hate speech in the NCI Act is too broad in definition. And strangely enough, it only talks about ethnicity&race. #Article19

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
The online Kenyan community should demonstrate self-regulation or the government will have to regulate us. #Article19

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
#HateSpeech has been made about politics. It also extends to other spheres! Religion, gender etc #Article19 #BloggersTraining

Martin Gicheru™ ‏@martingicheru
Rt “@mwendesusu A public figure must be able to prove that the defamation was malicious intent and not a fair comment. #Article19″

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
Be proactive – give different views of a story. @bake_ke workshop on #Article19 at @ihub. Defending freedom of expression and information.

Naomi Mutua ‏@AKenyanGirl
What is #Article19? http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/5058.html … http://yfrog.com/nyaxbgp

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
RT @teriwanderi: Stephanie Muchai from #Article19 taking us through her presentation… pic.twitter.com/Dqvht0OL

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
Careful online..Defamation -making untrue statements about another which damages their reputation..the law of the land applies #BAKETraining

Rayhab Gachango ‏@potentash
Laws of the land also govern the internet. #BakeTraining #OnlineFreedom

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
#Umati showing their categorization form of dangerous speech online. Quite extensive.

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Freedom of expression is the freedom to look for, receive and share information. #Article19 #BloggersTraining

Mwende Ngao ‏@mwendesusu
Wow, the gvt first wanted to use the same laws for broadcast media on the internet! Lol! #BloggersTraining #Article19

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
How hate speech come up-2. Warning Audience that they facing threat from another group or Tribe”our people are being targeted” #BAKETraining

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
How the hate speech come up- 1. Comparing a group of people with animals, insects or derogatory term in mother tongue #BAKETraining

Kachwanya ‏@kachwanya
Hate speech is vague and not well defined…the best term to use is Dangerous Speech…#BAKETraining

Please leave a comment about whether this article was helpful to you. What are your thoughts on the questions we discussed under regulation of Bloggers and Citizen Journalists. You can give a comment on what you think as well.

Should bloggers and citizens benefit from the same legal protections as journalists where they undertake the activity of journalism?
Are Internet users in Kenya being given the same due process due to all accused persons?
What is the basis of citizen journalist/blogger targeting in Kenya?
How are monitoring systems being used?
Are there ways in which Internet users are prejudicing themselves while exercising their freedom of expression through ignorance of monitoring systems?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. This is quite imformative. There is a very thin line between bloggers and journalists. Bloggers too need to be protected, but not the same way as journalists. They are supporsed to be a source of alternative news and giving them guidelines like journos will kill that. BAKE for starters is a good idea through which bloggers can rally together and protect their own. But still everyone should be free to air their opinion on their blogs. That way creativity will nourish.

  2. Point on. Illuminating. Though the expression of opinion should not blurred by ‘hate speech’ restrictions. The government is trying to stifle dissent.Bloggers should not buy the whole self-censorship thing.

  3. Yes,as bloggers,we have a duty to be socially responsible…Blogging is becoming a force which can build or destroy a nation.Look at last week’s demos by bloggers which influenced the president’s decision.

    As elections approach,there is need for vigilance-not gagging-on the blogosphere.And it starts with a decision by bloggers themselves to breed peace,not fan animosity.

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