Effective, balanced journalism could help calm public discourse

Hate speech and the fanning of ethnic discord was linked with violence after the disputed 2007 Kenyan elections that left 1,330 dead and more than 600,000 displaced. This violence is testimony to the efficacy of hate propaganda as a tool in the political arsenal of Kenyan politicians. There is little to deter its use again. Those accused of hate speech are rarely successfully prosecuted. Cases either drag on or are dropped, often for political reasons. Successful propagandists become valuable instruments for political leaders and their parties.

Discredited by their association with the post-election violence in 2007, professional journalists have done much to transform the way they report the news. But since 2016, observers have noted a resurgence of hate speech in community and local language media, mainly due to lack of capacity of journalists, and political interference or ownership. This is particularly true for media houses based at the county level, where media is under resourced and susceptible to control of local political interests. Of greatest concern is the rise of hate speech on radio talk shows on local-language stations, a primary source of news and information for many citizens. Nowhere is this concern greater than in Laikipia county in Kenya, where hate speech is rearing its head in advance of the 2017 elections, causing significant concern that violence could once again break out. …

Sexual harassment and online gender-based violence hinders progress in Sri Lanka

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Renowned Sri Lankan journalist, Dilrukshi Handunnetti (credit: Internews)

2012 was still a dangerous time to be a journalist in Sri Lanka. The 27-year civil war ended in May 2009, but the president who oversaw the final stages of the war, Mahinda Rajapaksa, continued to rule over this island nation of 21 million with an iron hand. Sri Lanka’s media became state-controlled and served as a mouthpiece for the government, even as some refused to conform. Dissent was not tolerated. Sri Lanka at the time was one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to live and work.

And yet, in the midst of all this impunity, it was gender-based hate speech that finally drove Muslim writer and blogger Sharmila Seyyid from her home in eastern Sri Lanka into exile in India, where she remains today. …

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Vimukthi and Shameera, co-founders of Mogo Solutions. Photo credit: Mogo Solutions

As a kid, Vimukthi Liyanage liked to make things. Fortunately, for Vimukthi, who grew up on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, his instinct to tinker morphed into a pathway to the Sri Lankan Institute of Technology, one of hundreds of IT training colleges springing up all over this small island nation. From the outset, he tracked the global startup scene, particularly as it was evolving in Silicon Valley. He avidly consumed news from TechCrunch and other leading tech news platforms. The pace of innovation on the global stage set his ambitions toward something big.

Vimukthi’s first break came after he completed his senior school studies and moved to Colombo, the nation’s capital. He joined the Sri Lankan media enterprise, Derana, which runs two TV stations, some radio stations and a website. He started as a web developer and his talent was quickly recognized by management who gave him the space to start developing a newsreader app. The result was Mogo Reader, an Android-based, Flipboard-style personalized news aggregator for the Sri Lankan market. …


Jennifer Cobb

Strategy and marketing consultant. Dedicated to technology for social good.

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