Talking back at the Digital Citizen Indaba

Thembeni Plaatjie

The annual Digital Citizen’s Indaba, a project of Highway Africa, was held on Wednesday at Rhodes University under the theme, Africa’s Underdevelopment: Digital Citizens Talk Back.

The Indaba explored citizen media and the exploitation of natural resources, disasters, climate change and mega events such as the 2010 Fifa World Cup. It featured media practitioners, journalists, citizen journalists, bloggers, and journalism educators. Digital media experts exchanged knowledge with digital citizens at workshops aimed to provide citizens with the skills of using cellphones and video technology.

The theme was split into three panel discussions namely,'Natural Resources Explotation Exposed', Mega Events – Whose Voices are heard?' and 'Citizen Media on Disasters and Climate Change'.

A keynote address was done by Kambale Musavuli, a Congolese activist and spokesperson for the Friends of Congo, which was launched in 2008 as an appeal to the global world for action and support for the people of Congo.

Musavuli explained why Africa continues to be underdeveloped. He told delegates that slavery, dictatorship, and lack of political space were the main concerns in his country. He cited the assassination of Congolose human rights activist Floribert Chebeya who died early last month. “The affairs of Congo have not been determined by the people of Congo,” added Musavuli.

He further said that Congo is faced with both internal and external challenges and urged the delegates to spread the word about the state of affairs in Congo.

Carel Pedre, a Haitian Radio DJ, used used his radio show, Twitter and blog to inform local and international communities about Haiti’s recent earthquake. He gave a detailed account of the earthquake. “I heard people screaming for help, saw buildings collapsing, and I reported what I saw on my radio show.

“I used Twitter and Skype to reach out to the world and let them hear from Haiti directly,” added Pedre.

The DCI conclude with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's closing speech on the role of media and new media in South Africa. He told journalists how the media was suppressed by the apartheid regime. “Some journalists could not report on certain issues because they did not want to upset those in power.

“The state president would call the South African Broadcasting Co-operation (SABC), and tell them not to run a certain material,” said Tutu.

He asked journalists to challenge those in power. “If you do not challenge those in power, I will be waiting for you in heaven,” he said.

Tutu concluded by signing the Declaration of Table Mountain, which is aimed at abolishing insult and criminal defamation laws in Africa, and setting a free press higher on the agenda. The Declaration is an earnest appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that the political economic progress they seek flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control.

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