Strategies for Internet Technology and Digital Rights Reporting

Strategies for Internet Technology and Digital Rights Reporting is the latest publication by MISA Zimbabwe. It covers pertinent issues on technology and the media industry, media freedom and the muzzling of freedom of speech among others. Read on for more.

Introduction

This research paper proffers strategies for promoting specialised journalism on internet, technology and digital rights in Southern Africa. The advent of digital technology and the widespread use of the internet, has radically transformed societies providing citizens with new avenues to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms.

Significant gaps in digital rights literacy have been a hindrance to citizens’ ability to recognise, claim and defend their digital rights (which are an extension of human rights that allow for use and access to the internet). Despite the digital rights literacy gaps, few journalists and media practitioners in the region have adequately or consistently provided information on, raised awareness about or explained/interpreted internet, technology and digital rights issues for citizens. One main reason for this is that reporting on technical fields such as internet and technology requires specialised skills and competencies found beyond the traditional toolkits of journalists.

Limited media freedom, muzzling of free speech and repression

The regulatory and policy environments obtaining in some Southern Africa countries makes the practice of journalism perilous as there is no media freedom in practical terms, even in instances where such freedoms are constitutionally guaranteed.

For example, Freedom House noted that in Zimbabwe;

  • The government is intolerant of critical online commentary and activism
  • The State often invokes vaguely written laws to arrest users
  • Online journalists and ICT users face regular harassment, intimidation, and violence for their online activities.

Conclusion

Specialised journalism is costly hence stakeholders that desire to promote internet, technology and digital rights reporting need to find ways to subsidise, incentivise, collaborate, fund and resource media players. Several strategies for doing so have been outlined in this paper, informed by successful strategies deployed in promoting other forms of specialised journalism such as elections and health reporting as well as climate change and data journalism. Private sector players, civil society organisations, foundations and donor-agencies can play a role in resourcing media players whether mainstream, online or peripheral actors. In addition, Governments in the region need to allow the media to operate freely and desist from political interference, censorship and repression so that media can enjoy editorial independence. Moreover, compliance with and adherence to regional and international instruments and the respective Constitutions of Southern Africa countries own Constitution is crucial in protecting the digital rights of citizens.

Access the full research report here (718KB PDF)

Source: MISA Zimbabwe

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