7th African Media Leaders Forum Tackles Hate Speech in the Media

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The African Media Initiative (AMI) will host the seventh edition of the African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF) in November 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a focus on media and hate speech. The AMLF is scheduled to hold on November 12 – 14, 2014 at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa with the  theme, “Turning the Page on Hate Speech in a changing media environment’’.

According to the organisers, this year’s edition will also draw attention to issues affecting the media industry. It will feature plenary debates, exhibitions, screenings, and an online campaign against Hate Speech, as well as the publication of resource materials. Jay Naidoo, Bineta Diop and Joseph Karorero, each of whom has played a crucial role in effecting real change in their respective countries will co-chair this year’s forum.

The AMLF 2014 began on July 23 with the launch of a campaign against hate speech in Johannesburg and will be subsequently carried out online on a full range of media platforms. The Forum hopes to use the theme to serve as a call to media leaders and operators in Africa to lend their full support to efforts to turn the tide against the rise of hate speech on the continent.

In May 2013, the African Media Initiative (AMI), the parent organization that hosts the annual forum, rallied key partners and stakeholders at a regional workshop in Rwanda to agree on an action plan against hate speech in Africa.This arose out of its concerns over the surge of intolerance and hate, the growing level of discrimination and the rise in ethnic and religious fundamentalism in Africa. AMLF 2014 is therefore a continuation of the commitment of AMI to ensure that media contributes to a culture of peace and tolerance on the continent.

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AMI’s Chief Executive Officer, Eric Chinje, pointing out the role of media leaders during the launch said media will play an important role, “if the basic tenets of journalism were recognized and respected by professionals, and balance and fairness in reporting became the norm everywhere.” He assured  that AMLF 2014 will offer a set of roadmaps with concrete steps for addressing some of the core challenges faced by media on the continent.

Speaking at the press conference, Jay Naidoo recalled the battles fought and sacrifices endured by many in his and earlier generations of South Africans and underscored the significant role played by international media in the demise of apartheid some two decades ago. He noted that AMLF 2014 will help shed light on an issue that continues to tear apart people, communities and nations and impede the emergence of a prosperous Africa.

The AMLF 2014 set up and officially presented its National Organizing Committee (NOC) members to the press during the campaign launch. The AMLF 2014 NOC members are Thebe Ikalafeng, Chair of Brand Africa; Louise Vale, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Publishers; Anton Harber, Professor of Journalism at the University of Wits; Ingrid Louw, CEO of Print and Digital Media South Africa and Mathatha Tsedu, Executive Director of the South African National Editors’ Forum.

Speaking on behalf of the NOC, Tsedu said that the time was ripe to address the issue of hate speech, especially in a year when two nations – South Africa and Rwanda were commemorating 20 years since the end of apartheid and the Rwandan genocide, two of the most heinous crimes to have been perpetuated on African soil.

AMI Board member Dele Olojede congratulated the organization’s management team for its choice of this year’s theme and urged the media community to demonstrate its ethical commitment to turning the page on hate speech in Africa.

The 2014 edition of the AMLF is also symbolic as the year marks two momentous events:  20 years since the end of apartheid in South Africa and 20 years since the Rwandan Genocide. African media leaders and owners will therefore use the Forum to hold frank discussions on how to uphold high ethical standards in the tricky world of politics and business.

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The organisers noted that: “Despite the ‘Never Again’ rhetoric, there are people today in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda and Nigeria, to name a few countries, who are facing persecution and stigmatisation based on ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender and religion.” Organisers have promised that this year, there will be an unprecedented array of industry exhibitors, as well as a gallery and screening room to allow for reflection on the main theme.

AMLF said it is determined that this should not just be a talk‐shop but an opportunity to catalyse real changes and that in order to do this, it will launch the #TurnthePageonHateSpeech online campaign in August to galvanise support and thought around the issue of hate speech. It added that through online competitions, a petition, a data map and a resource platform for journalists, it hopes to build real momentum around the theme.

The Forum also noted that there are shrinking businesses as a result of dwindling sales, circulation dips in the print market, runaway costs of employment due to fierce competition for talent, government‐cum‐political and commercial pressure that dents editorial independence and tech adaptation. It said these are the harsh realities that owners, editors and journalists are grappling with.

The AMLF 2014 will therefore bring together industry experts, rights activists, journalists and media owners and leaders from across Africa to seek practical solutions to persistent problems that plague the sector. It will seek to address the questions of how to build a boardroom culture that is committed to editorial independence and good governance as a means of “Turning the Page on Hate Speech.”

The African Media Initiative is the continent’s largest umbrella association of African media owners, senior executives and other industry stakeholders. AMI’s mandate is to serve as a catalyst for strengthening African media by building the tools, knowledge resources and technical capacity for African media to play an effective public interest role in their societies. This mandate includes assisting with the development of professional standards, financial sustainability, technological adaptability and civic engagement.