In the third short doc from Ethiopia, it becomes evident that the media public’s lack of education and digital literacy disturbs them from consuming filtered information. Elham Ali Mehammed describes how her motivation to defend herself and Ethiopia’s communities encourage her to work with youth and instruct them on the information disorder.
The DDMAC video about Rohobot Ayalew visualizes how her position as a fact checker at HaqCheck is essential to track misleading edits of war footage spread on social media. Her personal story illustrates how disinformation and hate speech can be a direct threat to someone’s life as it may incite hate crimes.
The documentary is part of the DDMAC (Decoding Digital Media in African Regions of Conflicts) research project and is made by Loretta van der Horst.
Text by Luca de Bruls, DDMAC, University of Leiden
The DDMAC research project proudly presents you with the visual results of a field trip to Ethiopia. During the project group’s stay in Addis Ababa, documentary filmmaker Loretta van der Horst shot short documentaries to make insightful how three Ethiopians deal with the information disorder in times of surging conflict. The short documentaries tell the stories of Samuel Getachew, Rohobot Ayalew, and Elham Ali Mehammed, who as journalists and fact-checkers combat the growing amount of false information in unique ways.
The video about Samuel Getachew shows the importance of social media in the Ethiopian conflict. As it becomes clear that the safety of journalists is under attack, the local producer for Al-Jazeera demonstrates how contending ethnic and political groups and a disparity in regional media coverage further excaberates the information disorder.
In a commentary in the Daily Monitor, the MA-student and part of the Norpart program at OsloMet university, Nelson Bahati, argues that the recently amended law on Computer Misuse curtails freedom of speech in Uganda.
The law is highly controversial and Nelson Bahati believes its amendment proves of “an iron hand on cybercrimes, malicious and uninvited information, false news” and also sees it as a violation of “any individual’s freedom and rights through the media”.
Please find the full commentary here.
Thank you to all who participated in making the 8th International Conference on the Safety of Journalists a success!
Among other things it resulted in this open letter to Elon Musk :
A call for action against gendered online violence!
By, Theodora Theodory, MA-student, OsloMet
At least 46 journalists and 4 media workers were killed globally since January 2021 and 508 journalists and 21 media workers are currently in prison. Speaking at the 8th International Conference on the safety of Journalists, Christen Krogh the Rector (Vice Chancellor) at OsloMet
University said that their death and imprisonment were linked to their journalistic activities.
These incidents compelled Tanja K. Hegge the General Secretary of the UNESCO commission in Norway – to call for United Nations and other humanitarian groups in the world to form a joint
venture to end impunity against journalists in the world.
“Impunity damages the whole society. Government, civil societies, media, and the world have to come together to rule out impurity against journalists”, said Tanja K. Hegge. She adds it is not that nothing has been done to end the situation; however, more effort is needed to deal with impunity against journalists in the world.
In the conference’s last keynote Dr. Saumava Mitra from Dublin City University, Ireland emphasized the need for building
solidarity for the safety of the global fourth estate. Mitra asserts that collaboration across borders, including radical sharing, regional collaborations of investigative journalism, and virtual newsrooms across countries, and microcosms may be important tools in the fight for ending impunity against journalists.
By Theodorah Munisi, MA-student OsloMet
Three research papers on training journalists for safety towards war news coverage presented at the 8th International Conference on the
Safety of Journalists suggested institutions like media organizations nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies should ensure more practical and comprehensive training on safety while preparing for war coverage.
In his study named ‘We Are All War Correspondents Now: The ethics of safety training interventions for Ukrainian media’, Georgios Terzis found that despite having local and International organizations like the DT Global training journalists to work in conflict zones but still some journalists found themselves in conflict situations in Ukraine having no safety training.
Georgios says journalists need to be consistently assured and provided with physical safety: hardware (items like flak jackets, helmets, and first aid kits), psychological safety (by recognizing trauma and self-help techniques, setting up an institutional support system like a safe online space), digital safety (online seminars on data & password safety, encryption, securing transmission and location).
Another study conducted by Signe Ivask and Angelina Lon named War Correspondents having a say: preparing journalism students for covering traumatic events found that some media organizations detach themselves from the negative outcomes that may face their journalists while covering war news.
One of their study correspondents said that his media organization made him sign a paper in case something happens then it was his responsibility but after a successful coverage, the media told everyone how proud they are. This discourages and reduces the journalist’s morale towards their efforts of making war news coverage.
The two researchers then suggested more skills like negotiation skills (life insurance necessity), basic medical training, strategy and planning, ethics, morality, and moral dilemma skills should be imparted to the journalists before their way to cover war news.
Lastly, the researchers collectively proposed training should be moved beyond, to facilitate a more safe and more sound environment for the journalists towards war news coverage.
By Nelson Bahati. MA-student, OsloMet.
During a panel discussion at the 8th International Conference on
the Safety of Journalists (2022) at OsloMet University, fact-checkers argued that fact-checking is risky and listed several safety
precautions fact-checkers should take for their own safety.
A fact-checker from “Factify Ethiopia,” Ashenafi Abebe, stated that
fact-checkers “need to focus on those important events,” adding
that fact-checkers risk losing their lives by engaging in risky
Similar to Abebe, Nerma Sehovic of the Bosnia and Herzegovina
fact-checking website Raskrinkavanje, highlighted that, in case of
their organization, harassment mostly stays online and there were
only a few times they felt that they were physically in danger.
However, they still feel it is important to talk about online
harassment and try to find solutions, so they can do their work.
Thus, it is important fact-checkers these days need to focus on their
This raises the question of whether self-censorship will become
fact checkers’ new focus, and the need to define the future of fact-checking. Thus, I think fact-checkers should find new strategies to
keep them focused on their work just like journalists who continue
reporting live from war zones.
The fact checkers also mentioned strategies that would help them
stay on task and prevent distractions. According to Abel Wabella,
fact-checkers might be safer if they participated in online security
training and joined regional, national, and worldwide fact-checking
By Theodorah Munisi, MA-student, OsloMet
A panel discussion by the DDMAC (Decoding Digital Media in African Regions of Conflict) research group on the 2nd day of the International Conference on the Safety of Journalists, explained to what extent the misuse of digital media and propagation
triggers the prolonged conflicts in some African countries like Mali and Ethiopia.
Making an account of the prolonged Malian conflicts, Mirjam de Bruijn, a professor and anthropologist on African studies, says there has been a trend of several influencers and public figures deliberately publishing unpleasing words, phrases, and hate speech on social media that leads to social divisions in the country.
Talking about the detrimental acts, Mirjam says some of the public figures get paid to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to publish hateful speeches and be part of the propaganda. In a long run, this makes the societies in Mali take sides in the conflicting groups and continue falling apart.
Reflecting on his experiences, Mulatu Alemayagu Moges a member of the DDMAC research group and also an assistant professor from Addis Ababa University says elites who are the agenda setters in the country have been writing many stories involving false information on Twitter about the Tigray civil wars. The profuse flow of such false information creates traumatic situations for civilians and creates distress.
Luca Bruls, a junior researcher at the DDMAC research group and a cultural an anthropologist explains how people use unique ways in social media like Twitter and TikTok to share false information and biased messages that stir up the conflicts in Mali. Luca says there has been biasing and false information published by people on Twitter that show their support towards the existence of Russian missiles in Mali while in reality a lot of civilians are dying.
The DDMAC research group has noted how digital communication has a severe impact both on how conflicts develop and how they are being mediated and how they reverse development progress in the African regions of conflict, thus they suggest that more
scientific studies should be done in the countries so as tackle the problem.
By Christine Kabazira, MA-student, OsloMet
According to research by Dr. Aisha Nakiwala, a senior lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda, media owners do not look at journalists’ safety beyond the physical aspect. However, journalists’ safety involves so much more than just their physical safety.
“There is a divergence of views and understanding of what constitutes the safety of journalists. For instance, media owners look at it from the perspective of lack of physical harm to media workers; while the journalists have a broader view of their safety- ranging from physical, economic, cultural and emotional safety.”
At the 8th annual international conference on the safety of journalists today at OsloMetropolitan University, journalists, media researchers and media students converged to discuss journalists’ safety under the theme: solidarity and self-reliance for improved safety of journalists.
While presenting her paper titled: “Is it collective responsibility? Reflections on activism and multistakeholderism in improving journalist safety in Uganda,” Dr. Nakiwala highlighted that the journalists interviewed in Uganda stated that they did not have among others, financial safety. She noted that the journalists mentioned that lack of financial safety exposes them to other bigger risks.
Dr. Nakiwala called for the need to provide a specific framework on journalists’ safety and a multistakeholderism approach to address journalists’ safety.
Similarly, Kriti Bhuju a journalist from Nepal said that lack of financial safety was a big challenge to journalists in Nepal.
According to research that she conducted, a journalist in Nepal said that they gave more priority and attention to a part-time job that paid them on time.
Poor or delayed pay of journalists not only reduces their morale but also affects the quality of news that they produce. It is also a stepping stone to the breaching of ethics by journalists.
It is imperative that media owners recognise that lack of financial safety for journalists will continue to remain a big hindrance to not only the progression of the journalism profession but also to the general health of the journalists.