By Douglas Namale
Social Media contribution in strenthening democrancy and transparency in the world has been recognised by the United Nations.
A pannel discussion held at the UN headquarters in New York on World Press Freedom Day, concluded that “social media is transforming societies”. In the discussion, entled ”New Voices,” the speakers agreed new media technologies are vital in promotion of democracy and transparency in the world.
UN officials and country representatives are still strugglling to understand citizens revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. United States, Greece, Spain, and dozens of other countries are also bewildered by evolving new media technologies and their ability to transform the means of communication. New media has played a key role in promotion of participatory politics, transparency and democracy revolutions experienced last year and remain on course upto date.
The increase in use of portable devices to access internet has played a major role in promotion of these New technologies. According to Internet Stats March 2012 report, about 4 billion people in the world are accessing internet. 10.5 million Kenyans are currently using internet. According to Communication Commission of Kenya, Kenya is ranked second in Africa in use of social media. According to UNESCO Director Mogens Schmidt “People, especially the youth, have found a voice where there was none before.”
However, many speakers in the discussion noted that many governments in the world are yet to recognise the importance of social media. Authoritarian regimes continue to saforcate these new media technologies to crack down citizens democratic movements.
Internet censorship, digital surveillance alongside harassment, detention, and murder of both professional and citizen journalists are on the increase. Many regimes still control the flow of information to quell these nascent movements.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says more than 60 journalists were killed and many more injured since the beginning of 2011. The reportby the Committee to Protect Journalists, indicates that 179 journalists were in detention by December 2011. This is the highest figure since mid 1990s.
UN country representatives and heads of states present in the event, cited the importance of ensuring press freedom. They also agreed to bring to justice those who target journalists. The representatives said there was need to celebrate the new media technologies because they have allowed people to express their views on how their governments functions.
The discussion involved experienced media personalities Ian Bassin of Avaaz, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Delphine Halgand of Reporters Without Borders and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin of the Huffington Post. The moderator was Mogens Schmidt from UNESCO. They shared their experiences in independent, social, and grassroots media, and how the media fraternity can cop with the evolving political and media landscapes in 2012.