Communication Rights in Africa: Emerging Discourses and Perspectives
Editors: Tendai Chari (PhD), Senior Lecturer, University of Venda, South Africa
Ufuoma Akpojivi, (PhD) Associate Professor and Head of Department, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Communication rights has been an integral component of the human rights discourse for the longest of time (Hamelink, 1994; 2004a; 2004b, UNESCO, 1980; O’Siochru, 2005; CRIS, 2005; Alegre & O’Siochru, 2005). Approaches to the role of communications differ significantly across cultures, not least because communication rights encompass a multiplicity of rights. Compounding this conundrum is a persistent impasse regarding what communication rights entail in post-colonial contexts such as Africa, who should protect them, how and against whom, how existing rights relate to broader communication rights in a digital context. Jean d’ Arcy, is credited for making the first explicit reference the ‘the right to communicate’ in 1969 (O’Siochru, 2005). Back then proponents of the communication rights within the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) debate arena pivoted their demands around democratization of the global media system and a balanced information flow between the Global North and the Global South, which were crystalized in the 4Ds; Development; Democratization, Decolonization, and De- monopolization (Hamelink, 1994). African nations also expressed disquiet about increased homogenization of cultures, misrepresentation of minority cultures, media commercialism and concentration engendered. While communication rights and its more politicized variant, ‘the right to communicate’ had receded to the backburner after the ‘death’ of the NWICO debate, the new reality spawned by the digital revolution has re-ignited attention on a host of concerns which hark back to earlier demands by African nations to rethink the justness of the global media information distribution system. While many of the controversies associated with NWICO persist through discursive constructions that mimic earlier notions of the right to communicate, new issues, challenges, questions (and players) linked to interactivity, connectivity and inter-operability in the context of the digital environment have emerged (Musiani, et al 2009). A range of new human rights such as citizens’ right to access digital infrastructures such as the #DataMustfall campaign in South Africa in 2016 speak to the new and evolving expressions of citizenship in the context of digitality (Oyedemi, 2015). On the one hand, the open architecture of digital media has facilitated the subaltern to partake in national conversations and to assert their cultural identities. On the other hand, challenges of Internet connectivity and exclusionary business practices such astronomical prices of data and gadgets threaten prospects for inclusivity in the digital sphere. Serious concerns have also been raised questions about the spread of fake news, misinformation, disinformation and hate speech on social media networks and how these in turn subvert the rights of others and what legitimate regulatory measures can be implemented by the state without undercutting the rights of citizens. Balancing communication rights and other human rights within a digital environment is a delicate exercise, as some African governments, in their attempt to curtail the spread of fake news, hate speech and critical voices have either shutdown internet services (Mare 2020) or formulated restrictive regulatory mechanisms as witnessed in Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria amongst others (see Olaniyan and Akpojivi 2021). Also, concerns about intensification of commodification of information propelled by the dominance of neo-liberalism market have heightened demands for the right to self-expression and equal access to digital technologies and infrastructures courtesy in a context of an ever-increasing digital divide. The extent to which communication should be geared towards preservation of national identity and national development in Africa resonates with the NWICO discourse, but also connects with contemporary demands for decolonization of communication through protection of cultural diversity in a context where indigenous African cultures are increasingly marginalized while dissenting voices are jettisoned from public discourses (Article 19, 2003; Anawalt, 1994). The ever-expanding range of issues encompassed within the communication rights discourse, particularly within the African context where freedom of expression corporatization of the media coupled with state repression obfuscate understanding of what constitutes communication rights, who should protect them and how. This edited volume contributes to the understanding of the multiple dimensions of the communication rights discourse from an African perspective. We invite contributions that explore residual and emerging discourses around the content, conception, conversations, implementation, institutions and actors within the communication rights discourse. We are particularly interested in original contributions that tackle these issues using a broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches. The abstract must clearly state the objectives of the study, the theoretical framework and the methodological approaches to be deployed. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: 2
- The human rights based approach to communication in Africa
- Communication rights offline and online in Africa
- Free-flow of information and communication rights
- Freedom of expression as a communication right
- The right to privacy, surveillance capitalism and communication rights
- Social media and activism, clicktivism
- Digital citizenship: rights and advocacy
- Digital Activism and social movements
- Internet shutdowns/censorship
- Internet rights, universal access to the Internet
- Politics of digital infrastructures
- Communication rights and digital monopolies
- Public Service media and communication rights
- Media regulation and communication rights
- Rights -based approach to journalism
- Investigative journalism and communication rights
- Communication rights for social bots
- Mainstream Journalism and human rights
- Media representations/misrepresentation and communication rights
- Digital piracy and communication rights
- Intellectual property rights
- Citizen journalism as a human right
- User-content comments and communication rights
- Open access publishing and communication rights
- Content Sharing, Wikis and communication rights
- The Knowledge Movement and Communication rights
- Language rights and the media
- Communication Rights and Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- Communication rights and decoloniality
Abstracts and biographies
Abstracts should be between 400 and 500 words.
Abstracts should be emailed as word to Tendai.Chari@univen.ac.za and
Biographies should not be more than 200 words
Length of Articles
Articles should not be more than 7000 words including references
Reference Style: Harvard
Deadline for Accepting Abstracts: 15 December 2021 Notification for Accepted Abstracts: 31 January 2022
Deadline for Full Papers: 30 April 2022 Expected Date of Publication: 31 October 2022
Targeted Publisher: Routledge
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Anawalt, C. Howard (1984) The Right to Communicate. Denver Journal of International Law & Policy, 13(2): 219-236.
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Hamelink, Cees (2004) Towards a Human Right to Communicate. Canadian Journal of Communication, 29: 205-212.
Mare, Admire (2020) State-Ordered Internet Shutdowns and Digital Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Communication, 14: 4244-4263.
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Olaniyan, Akintola and Akpojivi, Ufuoma. (2021). Transforming Communication, Social Media, Counter-Hegemony and the Struggle for the Soul of Nigeria. Information, Communication & Society, 24 (3): 422-437.
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