The UNESCO Liaison Office in partnership with CIPESA, AccessNOW and the Bloggers Association of Kenya hosted on September 24, 2019 an Ethiopian Bloggers Forum for bloggers in Ethiopia as part of a skills building initiative. This event was hosted within the framework of the Continental Annual Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2019 (FIFAfrica19) and the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAU 2019).
The forum provided a platform for more than 35 bloggers and journalists to share their experiences and challenges. It was noted that the digital era had provided a platform for people to access widespread information and partake in journalism through active engagement on social and digital media platforms. It was also an opportunity for most of the bloggers to meet up and discuss their work in light of ethical considerations. Participant bloggers who were composed of different thematic areas including health, social affairs and rights advocates, current affairs and politics raised a number of issues in the Forum.
Furthermore, a session focused on fact checking which was moderated by Cayley Clifford a researcher at Africacheck was highly engaging with key techniques and capacities enhanced. She stressed on the need to verify all kinds of information before sharing as the technology has brought up challenges, as opportunities, that require readiness and sophisticated skills. She shared tools and methods which could be used by individual bloggers in verifying information received online. She added that the spread of false information had become so widespread as a result of which people make decisions based on these false information that affect their lives and of others.
The last session stressed the need for the creation of an association of bloggers in Ethiopia. In his remarks, Mr. James Wamathai of the Bloggers Association of Kenya, who share the Kenyan experience, stated "when working as an association of bloggers, it is very easy to organize and create content to counter online hate speech, train members and other online users on digital skills, rights and advocacy”. Participates debated on the need, working structure, and ethical issues of having the bloggers association and formed a 15 member-working group that will facilitate further discussions on the key issues and the way forward.
The organizers UNESCO, AccessNow, CIPESA and BAKE promised to support the working group to achieve its objectives.