Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CHARGED... for sealing the lips

A few hours ago, I was charged with a criminal offence. It's the same charge being faced by Nana Darkwa, who accused Rawlings of setting fire to his own house.

The state is charging me with the offence of publishing news "with intent to cause fear and alarm" after I refused to name the sources behind a news item broadcast on Joy FM. If convicted, I could be jailed for no more than three years.

As some of you may be aware, I have been acting as news editor at Joy FM since Matilda Asante's resignation in April.

On July 6, we published a news story that the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) withdrew its petition to parliament against the STX Housing deal after some of its members were threatened either with death or the abrogation of government contracts.

The next day government issued a strongly-worded statement alleging that the story had been "concocted".
"The station, by this wild and deliberately concocted report cloaked in investigative pretentions, sought to cause fear and anxiety amongst the business community and the general citizenry," the statement, signed by Information Minister, John Tia, said. "Government is deeply offended by the JoyFM publication and demands that the management of the station substantiates its claims immediately or retracts the allegations and apologizes to the President, Government and people of Ghana accordingly. Meanwhile, Government has directed the security agencies to investigate the claim because death threats are not to be handled lightly."

A few days after the release of that statement, we received a letter from the CID Headquarters, inviting me to report at the CID headquarters to help with the investigations. I responded to the invitation last Friday – in the company of a lawyer, the producer of the Super Morning Show and the business development manager for the Multimedia Group, Charles van Dyke. After waiting for about 45 minutes we were ushered into an office whose walls were almost entirely adorned with the photographs of former heads of the CID – even from as far back as the colonial era.

There were four men seated at a large table. The man at the head of the table spoke first in a raspy voice.
"My name is Dorvlo," he said with a smile. "I hope you have heard the name before."

"Not really," I said.

"Well, I am the new CID director," he announced, asking to be pardoned for his voice because he had a cold.

He proceeded to tell us why he had invited us to his office – they were investigating a story aired on Joy FM. He then handed us over to two men later led us into another office on an upper floor in the CID headquarters building for questioning.

They asked me to name the source of our report, saying they needed to know those who had been threatened so they could offer protection for those who had been threatened, and possibly, prevent a crime from being committed.

I refused to name the sources, insisting that no journalist worth the paper he writes on would reveal his sources.

Then they took my caution statement. They set a bail of five thousand cedis for me and asked me to report to today.

I went back to the CID headquarters, as scheduled, this afternoon at 1pm. After waiting for about an hour, I was told to call my lawyer. I did and shortly after he showed up – along with some members of the top brass of the Multimedia Group – I was informed that I was being charged with the "publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm."

Once again, bail was set and Charles van Dyke signed the bail bond. I was released and initially told that I'd make my first court appearance on Wednesday. But about two hours after I returned to the office, the investigator called to tell me that I will be informed about the court date on Wednesday afternoon.

"I need to submit a report to my bosses first," he said.

I have no choice so I'll wait for those "bosses" to make up their minds.

In the meantime, lawyers have advised that I refrain from making any comments on the criminal charges leveled against me. All I can say, for now, is that I am unfazed. I am hoping for the best but I'm very prepared for the worst.


For Ghana Journalist Association and Media Commission reaction to this development go to http://news.myjoyonline.com/news/201007/49405.asp

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Internet has 'not become the great leveller’

"The internet has not become the great leveller that it was once thought it could be," according to Harvard academic Ethan Zuckerman.

Mr Zuckerman was speaking at the TED Global (Technology Entertainment and Design) conference in Oxford.

He said that the web was now contrary to the original utopian vision and users focused on information from a handful of wealthy countries.

"It's making us 'imaginary cosmopolitans'," he told delegates.

Social networks, he said, made the problem worse with the majority of people sharing information with folk who share their world-view.

"We think we're getting a broad view of the world, because it's possible that our television, newspapers and internet could be giving us a vastly wider picture than was available for our parents or grandparents," he said.

"When we look at what's actually happening, our world-view might actually be narrowing."

Mr Zuckerman, an entrepreneur, blogger and researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said that it was his aim to change the situation and realise the original vision of the net.


He pointed to research that showed the focus of media organisations had also narrowed in recent years.

"When I was growing up in the US in the 1970s, 35-40% of an average nightly newscast focused on international stories," he told the audience.

"The percentage of international news in an average newscast is now 12-15%."

He said the internet - and its global reach and infrastructure - could address that gap, but many people chose not to engage.

"The promise of the internet - the idea that everything is just a click away - is that in Britain I can read newspapers from Australia, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Canada, at no cost and end up with a wider view of the world. The truth is that, on average, I won't."

He said that in the UK, more than 95% of traffic to the most popular news sites is to domestic sites.

And he saw the same pattern across the world.

For example, he said, most US news focused on North America and countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where its troops were based.

This problem is compounded by social networks, he said.

Tools like Twitter trap people in so-called "filter bubbles", a phrase put forward by political activist Eli Pariser.

"The internet is too big to understand as a whole, so we get a picture of it that's similar to what our friends see," said Mr Zuckerman.

"If you turn to your friends, eventually you get the wisdom of the flock."

True colours

He highlighted research done by Twitter, which found that almost a quarter of its US users were African-American

"That was pretty surprising to most American users, who assumed that Twitter was just used by nerdy white guys," he said.

And research by scientists at tech giant IBM had shown that the popular topics of conversation between white users and African American users were very different, highlighting the fact that networks reinforced a certain world view.

For example, he said, cookout was a term mostly used by black twitter users, whilst oil spill was a predominantly white topic.

"The wider world is a click away, but whether we mean to or not, we're usually filtering it out," said Mr Zuckerman.

However, Mr Zuckerman said there were solutions that could realise the original vision of the internet and contribute to a greater understanding of the wider world.

 Of particular help, he said, would be finding mechanisms to amplify the voices of thousands of bloggers, particularly those in countries under represented in mainstream media.
Crunch time

Mr Zuckerman admitted he had a particular interest in this, as he is one of the founders of a not-for profit network of bloggers called Global Voices, which aims to fill in the gaps in global media coverage.

These networks may be hidden from the wider world until times of crisis, he said.

For example, a network of Madagascan bloggers called Foko club, originally set up to teach high school students English suddenly rose to prominence in 2009 when the president of the country was overthrown and most media organisations were barred from the country.

"Foko were reporting breaking news with their blogs and cellphone cameras," he said. "If we want a wider world, we'd find ways to raise voices in places we don't often hear from, like Madagascar."

He also highlighted a project in China called Yeeyan, which uses a network of 150,000 volunteers to translate and publish 50 to 100 articles each day from western publications, such as The New York Times

"Where's the English-language version that's giving us insights into what's being said in Chinese media?" he asked.

However, he said, to truly realise the vision people needed curators to collect the content together and who bridged different cultures to put content into context.

These bridge figures and xenophiles could then act as "trusted guides" to unfamiliar content.

"My challenge is this: it's not enough to make a personal decision that you want a wider world," he said.

"We have to figure out how to rewire the systems we have. We have to fix our media, we have to fix the internet, we have to fix education."

In addition, he said, the net needed new translation projects and tools along with new mechanisms for discovering content through serendipity.

"That's what I am trying to do - I need your help," he said.

TED Global runs from 13-16 July in Oxford, UK.

source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10642697

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Results: Telkom – Highway Africa New Media Awards 2010, in Association with the Open Society Institute for West Africa

The Telkom – Highway Africa New Media Awards took place on Sunday 4 July, 2010 at the Opening Dinner of  2010 Highway Africa conference.

These are the 2010 winners and runner-ups:

Not-for-Profit Category

  • Winner: African Woman and Child Feature Service – www.awcfs.org (represented by Wambui Gicheru, IT Director)

Judges' Comments: The well articulated presentation of women and children's issues both in design and content, make this a sure winner. AWCFS builds capacity to report on gender issues and addresses the needs of a marginalised community. It is very extensive and covers many areas affecting women in Africa.

Judges' Comments: This website provides a virtual space for networking and exchange of information among contemporary Kalahari communities and individuals throughout Southern Africa. The judges said it was a useful community portal and its focus on a marginalised community makes it stand out.  

Individual or Student Category

Judges' Comments: The ZA Tech Show is a weekly technology podcast, hosted is by Simon Dingle and regular panellists. Judges said the website reflects innovations in the use of new media, combines audio and video download, as well as streaming. It builds understanding of new media development for both journalists and the audience.

Judges' Comments: This is a personal and extensive blog that updates on ICT developments. It integrates RSS feeds, Picassa and Twitter feeds and also regularly updated at least 50 articles a month since January 2010.

Corporate Category

  • Winner: Zoopy.com – www.zoopy.com  (represented by Jason Elk, CEO, Zoopy)

Judges' Comments: Zoopy is an online and mobile social media community, where users upload, share and interact with videos, photos and audio. One judge said they were very impressed with the backend work that must take place to make all this possible. The content is also regularly updated, varied and fresh. Comments from visitors provide platform for interactivity and the views on the videos provide proof that the site is actually visited regularly.

Runner-up: Dispatch Online Blogs – http://blogs.dispatch.co.za/ (represented by Jan Hennop, Online News Editor)

Judges' Comments: This is the breaking news blog of the Daily Dispatch and all from the Eastern Cape. Judges described it as a very interesting concept backed by a well designed and presented website. One judge described a post titled "Dying to Live", as "one of the most in depth online reports I have ever come across. The level of research, use of different types of media sets a standard for other newspapers across Africa to follow".

Prices included the elegant Highway Africa Globe Trophies; $1000 for winners and $500 for runner-ups complements of OSIWA, and gadgets from Telkom.

The judges for the 2010 Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards were:

  • Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu (Chair of the Jury) – Director, www.penplusbytes.org
  • Ms. Natasha Primo – Senior Projects Coordinator, Association for Progressive Communications
  • Ms. Nnenna Nwakama – Founder and CEO, NNENNA.Org.
  • Mr. Fungai Tichiwangana – Founder and publisher of www.zimbojam.com

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Friday, July 09, 2010

ICT and Civic Engagement in Nigeria: the 2011 Presidential Election and Beyond

A Public Symposium
19 July 2010
Abuja, Nigeria
Sponsored by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Digital Bridge Institute, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the Berkman Center. 

Visit the   main website      http://www.e-nigeria.org/  For this event, which includes registration, the agenda, and more information.


The objective of this ongoing series is to stimulate discussion of, engagement with, and reflection upon the role and uses of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in civic engagement. We will specifically examine and advocate around the upcoming 2011 Nigerian presidential election, exploring ICTs as environments to educate, discuss, deliberate, choose, and act. The meetings will draw on relevant experiences from Nigeria, the rest of Africa, and elsewhere around the world, bringing together thought leaders, practitioners, activists, and citizens, with a particular focus on civil society actors.

Of particular interest are the various ways in which ICTs can be enabling key functions of democracy, including how they help people to access and share relevant news and information, organize and coordinate activity, and generate and utilize data. While these endeavors are always important in the drive to create transparent and accountable government and rich civic engagement, they are perhaps never more essential as in the period around (and including) elections, where they represent a unique resource.


Nigerians, and indeed the world, are collectively holding their breath in anticipation of the 2011 presidential election. Indeed this election's importance to the citizens of Nigeria and the good functioning of the government cannot be overstated. And no longer is there doubt as to the tremendous promise – and associated risks – of using information and communication technologies to enhance the effectiveness of both electoral activities and new approaches to reform, monitoring, and civic participation in the democratic process.

This upcoming symposium and workshop emerged from a July 2009 conference in which diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made plain the requirements of robust state accountability and transparency for civil society to succeed with its missions – and the concomitant potential of ICTs to support these goals of participatory, inclusive and deliberative processes of decision-making. What became eminently clear from these NGO participants was that Nigeria now sits at a critical juncture with respect to this civic engagement, with all eyes focused upon the upcoming election.


The symposia are co-organized by the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (USA), hosted by Digital Bridge Institute (Nigeria), and sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


The series begins with a large, daylong public symposium at the Yar' Adua Centre in Abuja on July 19, 2010, followed by a smaller invitation-only interactive workshop on July 20 at the Digital Bridge Institute in Abuja. Facilitators are leading researchers, activists and organizations in the field and will come from Nigeria, across Africa and around the world. Participants will overlap, drawing from across sectors, including NGOs, donors, academics, activists, policymakers, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

The public symposium will introduce the big picture making the issues widely accessible and compelling to a diverse public audience. It will include a small number of plenary talks from eminent personalities designed to give framing overviews to the topics. However, most of the day will consist of panel discussions that will combine case studies and critical analysis with policy engagements including next-step provocations.

The subsequent workshop will consist of highly interactive plenary sessions separated by two hands-on breakout sessions focusing on relevant skills, strategies and tools. This invitation-only workshop will be limited to at most 100 participants.

Visit the main website for this event, which includes registration, the agenda, and more information.

International Institute for ICT Journalism