This event marks the publication of a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) report on the use of social media in political mobilisations against authoritarian regimes in a number of African countries. The study aims to show how the Internet is democratizing public spheres and political cultures in authoritarian regimes without necessarily threatening the regimes’ power in the short term. Ethiopia and Egypt have been the current focus of the research programme but the project will expand to include Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Eritrea and Rwanda. Each of these countries show authoritarian characteristics and have increasingly active online communities. But they also differ in the extent of their authoritarianism, political stability, history of press freedom, relationships with the West, ICT development models, internet diffusion and media control approaches. Given that all these factors affect the nature and extent of online participation, a bigger sample of country-specific studies will provide a more authoritative account of the democratization effects of participatory media in Africa.
African online media remains largely unmapped. This study will provide a picture of participatory media in the sample countries. As one of the very few studies on African participatory media, it is hoped that it will contribute to the understanding of the new media in Africa and its links to democratization. It is also intended that the study will be used as a source material for future research.
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