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Alumni News

News from and about MPI Alumni

MPI Alumnus Receives General Education Teaching Award

MPI Alumnus Receives General Education Teaching Award

We are delighted to share that MPI alumnus Dr. Martin Chung is the recipient of the 2021/22 General Education (GE) Teaching Award (Individual). The General Education Teaching Award from Hong Kong Baptist University "aims to recognize individual academic/teaching colleagues’ outstanding performance and devotion in the teaching of GE courses."

Martin wrote that he received the award for his undergraduate course, "Sustainable Peace: Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation of Divided Communities." He conceived of this course during his time at MPI's 2017 Annual Peacebuilding Training.

See the Hong Kong Baptist University website for details.

Image from Hong Kong Baptist University Facebook page.

Peacebuilding in the Digital Age

Peacebuilding in the Digital Age

As the pandemic forced us into social distancing, and at times, even social isolation, many of us turned to the online world for our work, our day-to-day communication, and as a way to stay connected. We have done this through various platforms, including email, text messaging, online conferencing programs, and perhaps more than any other, social media. In doing so, we confronted the reality that has existed long before the pandemic that social media is both a blessing and a curse. It is a platform that has allowed us to stay connected to friends and families, sharing with them stories, photos, and videos so that we can maintain the shared memories that would otherwise be lost. At the same time, it has accelerated conflict and amplified divisions, particularly due to the inability of these platforms to prevent misinformation or intentional disinformation.

In this issue of our newsletter, we are sharing with you the experiences of three alumni with social media and the common thread of hate speech being woven through their stories. Kisuke Ndiku writes of the ongoing conflicts in Africa and how social media has both exacerbated these conflicts as well as provided a space for those who wish to help mitigate the conflicts, especially the African Diaspora. Chris Alu from the Solomon Islands shares how social media is disrupting the local culture and has played a mostly negative role in the recent crisis there. Finally, we read about social media being a place for peacebuilders to advocate for their work, the rights of women, and media, but even that online space is shrinking.

MPI recognizes this online sphere as one with which we must be concerned as much as we have been with the conflicts that occur in the communities, countries, and regions in which we live and work. As the Noble Prize-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa said in her acceptance speech, “What happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media. Online violence is real-world violence.” To begin to address these concerns, MPI organized an online pilot workshop on digital security for peacebuilders with the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) where 26 alumni learned about the basics of secure online communication. MPI will be working with DDP to develop more workshops for peacebuilders interacting in the digital space. MPI is also looking at developing a course on “digital peacebuilding” that will allow participants to explore how online tools and platforms are worsening conflicts and how they can be used to build peace.

In the meantime, MPI will also be looking at its own presence on social media. We plan to reach out to our alumni to seek your opinion. Please feel free to comment here or contact us with your thoughts and ideas. We look forward to hearing more from you in 2022!

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Hate Speech and Social Media in Africa

Hate Speech and Social Media in Africa

Introduction

The world today is being defined by the many avenues for free expression beyond what could have even been imagined just 15 years ago. It has become a more open space with a hugely reduced room for privacy, especially with the rise of social media and networking, which has transformed the way individuals, groups, and society communicate. 

While social media has served as a platform for the creation of ideas and where opinions are influenced, expressed, and shaped, it has also become the prime carrier of fake news, conspiracy theories, and a tool for hate crimes and hate speech anywhere in the world, overtaking the traditional propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation machines. In Africa, social media has contributed to bringing changes, such as the Arab Spring and media swings in elections in West Africa, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya. The power of social media in Africa is apparent in the instability in Ethiopia and in mobilizing the spectacular rallies that resulted in the toppling of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. It has also been part of the constant local and national conflict in South Sudan. 

Social Media Within Our Society

Social Media Within Our Society

As a peacebuilder, what I am sharing here are my own views only and is the way I see social media in our context. Some of this reflects discussions from among my peers and others who have the same passion as a peacebuilder.

In the Solomon Islands, social media has played a role that can help advocate for our peacebuilding work, but it also has a destabilizing effect. People no longer trust social media because it has been used to disseminate unverified second-hand information, including to those for whom we are trying to advocate our cause about which we are so passionate.

Social media: fighting hate speech, discrimination, and promoting peace

Social media: fighting hate speech, discrimination, and promoting peace

Social media has come to be one of the most powerful tools for disseminating news, events, advocacies, celebrations, and many other issues concerning human lives in the 21st century. However, despite its advantages, it is also used to disseminate hate speech and to promote fanatic ideologies and issues not corresponding with peaceful cultures and positive moral values within communities. To that end, it paves the ground for humiliation, deepening ethnic division, and dissemination of false and unconfirmed news that leads to fear and harassment.

In my organization, social media is widely used mainly for press statements and updates on activities—a tool for spreading information to a wider community about what our organization is doing. Whenever there is a public report, especially ones related to human rights, or statements on issues related to peace or human rights, or campaigns on the elimination of violence against women, key messages are posted through social media. These posts include important points reflecting on why people should be concerned and the due responsibility of the government to promote and protect human rights, including its responsibility as a member of the international community and conventions. Such postings are done very carefully to avoid any hatred or misinformation. It is also being used as an advocacy tool, reflecting the stand of the organization for democratic values when it faces huge resistance.

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