Week 5

The focus for this week is on the spread of democracy and freedom of political expression through the emergence of mass media usage in Africa.

In the article, Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, authors Chiluwa and Adegoke links democracy with the use of Twitter to combine voices against the Nigerian Taliban known as the “Boko Haram”. It is an extreme Islamic terrorist group targeting Christians, the police and state officials. People of Nigeria voiced their opinions through Twitter to demand political and religious independence of the north and the southeast of the country. They also took this opportunity of free speech to connect with the rest of the country to address their concerns about the attacks by Boko Haram and their annoyance with the government. People using social media as “citizen journalism” to come together and demand change in their own community is a sign of positive development in my opinion. And because these expressions are made on a public platform, the terrorist group is able to know the dissatisfaction people feel along with their individual opinions, which I think is pretty neat considering the fact that there is empowerment involved when their voices are combined.

The “Boko Haram” article ties into the podcast Mass Media and Democracy that feature Professor Folu Ogundimu, Peter Limb and Olabode Ibironke. It focuses on the use of mass media particularly in Nigeria and the revitalization of democracy in Africa as a whole. The podcast very much encourages local expressions and urges this transformation of ‘moving away from western expressions’ while using social media. The Internet is accessible to all and how people want to utilize that space to create their own positions regarding a matter is up to them, so Ogundimu argues about the lack of critiques that there are. Freedom of expression is very important when equating it to create and promote democracy, so the fact that Africans who do have access to various types of social media are using it to liberalize political views in their countries display acceptance and in a sense, equality, as it provides an opportunity to partake in these paradigms of development.

Lastly, the chapter in Media and Identity in Africa analyses the various roles of media in relation to development. The authors describe media as “a communicative space for public discourse” despite one’s race, gender, class and religion. Four main roles of the media are discussed as they interplay to constitute social identities and promotion or undermining social development. This was an interesting read because how media portrays a matter can sometimes highly differ from the actual situation because of who the channel is owned by. There is politics involved in how they want the general public to perceive a particular incident, so when the authors express the lack of biased media that Africa has, such as CNN, BBC or Al-Jazeera, I thought it was approaching this ‘skewed form of news delivery’ from a completely new perspective in terms of self-image. Africa has always been seen under a negative light and for development to continue, how media sends messages across countries is just as important and empowering as its use over social media forums.

Discussion Questions:

  • What are the pros and cons to this emergence of the usage of social media forums to express opinions?
  • Can these suggestions made by people on social media regarding Boko Haram cause damage to individual lives as this is done on such a public platform?

Arpita Biswas: 110342830

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