The countdown to the 2014 African Media Leaders’ Forum (AMLF) has begun with the launch in Johannesburg today of a campaign against hate speech. The campaign will be carried out online and on a full range of media platforms, and will be the main theme of the 2014 AMLF, which is scheduled to take place from November 12 – 14 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The theme, ‘Turning the Page on Hate Speech in a Changing Media Environment’, will 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. Concerned by the surge of intolerance and hate, the growing level of discrimination and the rise in ethnic and religious fundamentalism, the African Media Initiative (AMI), rallied key partners and stakeholders at a regional workshop held in Rwanda last May to agree on an action plan against hate speech in Africa. AMLF 2014 is a continuation of the commitment of AMI, the parent organization that hosts the annual forum, to ensure that media contributes to a culture of peace and tolerance on the continent.
Speaking during the launch, AMI’s Chief Executive Officer, Eric Chinje, pointed to the role of media leaders “in ensuring that media in Africa rises to the challenge of consolidating democracy and responding to the needs of a continent that aspires to emerge as a global economic player”. Media will play that important role, he said, “if the basic tenets of journalism were recognized and respected by professionals, and balance and fairness in reporting became the norm everywhere.” Recognizing the challenges that media in Africa face, he pointed out 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, one of the Co-Chairs of this year’s AMLF, 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.
Six years after its creation, it will be the first time that Southern Africa plays host to the AMLF. A National Organizing Committee (NOC) was set up and its members were officially presented to the press during the campaign launch: 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, Mathatha 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.
AMLF is scheduled to take place at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg.