Maldives’ Anti Defamation Law: Instilling fear

I travelled to the Maldives in August 2016 to conduct a training to journalists on media rights monitoring and advocacy. During my three-day stay in Male, I met with a few friends (bloggers, journalists and others). This blog is based on talks with friends.

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The new Anti-defamation Act in the Maldives serves to silence instilling fear in the media community which can face huge fines and imprisonment if found guilty of defamation.

“… but after the law, I am not sure,” a blogger from the Maldives told me answering my questions about how long he would continue writing critically on the government. The law he was referring to was the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, passed by the Maldivian parliament on August 9, 2016, despite widespread criticism.

Every conversation with anyone who writes opinions on public issues – journalists or bloggers or social media users – the law was mentioned as a sword hanging over their heads. The new law is a direct threat to the freedom of opinion and expression for Maldivians, who now fear that they could be slapped with huge fines huge and jailed for their words published in the media or even on social media.

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Why We Should Express Our Opinions Publicly

“Facebook & Twitter is full of trash! People are writing all sorts of non-sense thing on Social Media.”

I hear that quite often. I am asked about it quite often. There were times – such as after the April 25’s Earthquake – when I felt irritated, frustrated and even angered by what were written on Facebook and Twitter. Everyday, I see Facebook and Twitter; and I find things that people should not post there.

This morning I saw one of my students (and a journalist) posting news with a picture of a woman who was hanged herself. The other day, someone wrote a racial comment regarding a political group. Of course, there are things that shouldn’t have been posted on Social Media.

And, there are quite a lot of things that I come across everyday that I disagree – wholly or partly. Reading such posts gives be a kind of bad feelings – sometime a light one and sometime a hard one.

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Responsible Social Media

(This write-up is published in April 2013 issue of Samhita – a quarterly publication of Press Council Nepal.)

Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, during his speech to mark the Press Council of Nepal’s anniversary in September 2012, talked critically about social media and its content. He said:

“Social media have become very useful and effective for quick dissemination of news, quick feedback & quick response, but we are seeing indications that the content & language uploaded on social media are becoming challenge to society, social harmony, national unity, national integrity & individual’s privacy.”

The Prime Minister’s comments were not unfounded given that most of the politicians are criticized heavily on social media. He also proposed that the scope of the Press Council should be expanded to the Internet and that the quasi-governmental body should actively facilitate print, electronic and social media to ensure decency in content & language.

Earlier in February 2012, PM Bhattarai’s comments on social media during the program to launch ‘Beginning of Digital Signature’ were harsher and naturally it met with a lot of criticism.

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(Social) Media Predictions 2013

It’s not easy to predict but in the coziness of warm bed, I decided to predict how Nepali media, especially in connection with social media, is going to change in upcoming year. Feel free to add your own predictions in comments!

I’m prediction that 2013 will see introduction of mobile news applications (for iPhone/iPad/Android) by mainstream media, more social media integration by mainstream media and more media outlets!

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#NetFreedom: Deception in the air

(to mark the International Human Rights Day)

How you feel if someone says: “Eat as much as you can (before the food is ready)” and when the food is ready, you are told: “That’s enough: you are eating too much.

That’s exactly what is happening with our rights to freedom of expression and opinion!

Citizens around the world living in democratic countries were guaranteed rights to freedom of expression for long. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated long ago in 1948 by UN General Assembly, has explicitly stated it in Article 19.

All democratic nations around the world have copied, rephrased/translated and pasted the text in their constitutions. As citizens we’ll thought well we’ve individually rights to freedom of expression and opinion.

We didn’t have a powerful medium through which we could effectively exercise the rights and we were made to believe media is mediating the rights on behalf of us.

But we are being deceived!

The Internet emerged as a powerful medium that every individual around the world could use to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and opinion. When blogging emerged, it was evident. If blogs were difficult to set up and continued, then social media (on internet) is the easiest tool to use to express ourselves.

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Content Curation: Making Sense of Flooding Information

(This is third installment of reading materials I distributed to journalists during training on social media for journalists. Find the first and second.)

A content curation to define content curation! This is an introduction to the concept of content curation. This post is a content curation itself as all the contents of the site have been taken from various sources of the web which are properly attributed.

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10 Golden Rules of Tweets & Retweets

(Second installment of the reading material I distributed in training for journalists – first is here.)

These rules are collected, summarized and synthesized from everywhere in the Internet (and blended with my experience, knowledge and opinion).

1. Tweet regularly – do not flood the timeline but do not disappear.

2. Tweet meaningful – ensure that each of your tweet is meaningful (at least indication of being meaningful).

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Observations from #SocialMedia trainings

Dhangadhi Training.

In October and November 2012, I travelled five places to train journalists in use of social media. The training was organized by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP in partnership with the Government of Japan and UNESCO.

The five training venues were: Biratnagar (east Nepal), Balthali, Kavre (central), Pokhara (west), Dhangadhi (far-west) and Nepalgunj (mid-west). Altogether more than 150 journalists attended the two-day residential training – at an average of 30 trainees per venue.

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How can journalists use social media?

(In October/November, 2012, I traveled around the country to train journalists on use of social media. The training, held by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP’s project, was held in Biratnagar, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dhangadhi & now I am in Nepalgunj. Each training lasted two days and included around 30 journalists. Here is one of the reading materials I wrote for the training. I will upload some others soon.)

Journalists can use social media to aid to their work as journalist and to improve their professional skills. Here are six things that journalists and their organizations can do with social media to aid to journalistic processes:

The six things discussed here are 1. Seek idea and information, 2. Cultivate sources, 3. Verify Information, 4. Publish / Distribute News, 5. Promote Write-ups / get feedback / measure popularity.

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