There is nothing new about hate speech. What has changed is the mode of delivery.
In Nazi Germany, it was state-controlled newspapers and radio. At the time of the genocide in Rwanda, it was a radio station run by the Hutu government. Today, it is social media, until recently largely unregulated.
Last year the South African president elevated the epidemic of violence against women to national crisis level following pressure from activists, promising to put in place a public national register of offenders, a review of cold cases and harsher penalties for perpetrators.
No apologies for quoting at length from “The Media Isn’t Ready to Cover Climate Apartheid” by Michelle García (The Nation, 17 June 2020).
While praising the public service ethic of many media outlets, whose coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic has been exemplary, she notes an apparent reticence or inability to delve in depth into its impact on the most marginalized. She also questions media preparedness for the greater crisis to follow:
[caption id="attachment_26456" align="alignleft" width="300"] Image: United Nations COVID-19 response[/caption]
In times of disaster, the need to engage with affected communities to ensure useful, timely and accurate information is mutually shared is increasingly recognised as essential.
A group of 153 academics, writers, and social activists published a letter in Harper’s Magazine (7 July 2020) expressing concern that “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments” are tending “to weaken norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity”.
Protests against racism unleashed by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis spread all over the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe in May and June of this year.
The Philippines is facing another crackdown on media freedoms.
[caption id="attachment_26326" align="alignleft" width="237"] Maria Ressa. Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock[/caption]
On June 15, 2020, a court in the capital Manila, convicted former CNN journalist Maria Ressa and former Rappler writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. of cyber libel for publishing an article that implicated a prominent businessman who was allegedly involved in human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Democracy stands or falls by its guarantee of freedom of expression and opinion and an independent press.
Two tragic events have thrown that statement into sharp relief: the global coronavirus pandemic and the murder of George Floyd in the USA.
Ownership of mobile phones, especially smartphones, is spreading rapidly across the globe.
Yet, there are still many people in emerging economies who do not own a mobile phone, or who share one with others. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2019 mobile divides were most pronounced in Venezuela, India, and the Philippines, countries where three-in-ten adults do not own a mobile phone.