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#EndSARS: How Nigerians harness social media against police abuse

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Port Harcourt, Nigeria – For two weeks, thousands of young people across Nigeria and abroad this month took to the streets to call for the dissolution of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an infamous police unit accused of extortion, extrajudicial killings, rape and torture.

This was far from the first time Nigerians had made such a demand. It was, however, by far, the first time their calls garnered such widespread support and international media coverage – thanks, largely, to the prominent role of social media in spreading the word.

Peaceful protests against police brutality began on October 8 after a video allegedly showing a SARS operative killing a man was widely shared online.

The #EndSARS hashtag swiftly started trending, boosted in part by Nigerian celebrities and high-profile personalities with large followings. As the hashtag also spread beyond the country’s borders, a number of Nigerian Twitter users announced they would help cover the phone bills of others so they could afford to keep tweeting and maintain momentum.

Encouraged by the first protest held in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, Uloma Nwoke and her friends decided to also organise one in the Lekki area of the city. They shared a flyer detailing the time and location of the protest on various social media platforms – and on the morning of October 10, they were surprised to see that nearly 1,000 people had descended on the site.

“A lot of celebrities and influential people showed up,” Nwoke said.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away, Omolara Oriye, a human rights lawyer, was organising a protest via WhatsApp in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. She said a video of Nigerian police officers manhandling demonstrators circulating on Twitter prompted her to action.

“I contacted the Nigerian Student Association in Pretoria who put me in touch with Nigerian students,” said 32-year-old Oriye. “We met at the [Nigerian] embassy.”

On October 15, the protest movement got an extra push from Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, who used the #EndSARS hashtag as he posted a donation link associated with the Feminist Coalition, one of the most prominent groups supporting protesters on the ground.

While the amplification of the protest by celebrities and social media influencers bridged the information gap left by local news outlets, protesters resisted attempts by government officials to single out influential personalities as spokespeople via invitations to join newly instituted panels on police reforms.

Having witnessed other movements fizzle out following closed-door meetings between lionised protest leaders and government representatives, many activists cautioned against such appointments.

Nwoke, 25, decried the tendency of celebrities to monopolise the microphone at protest venues, depriving those most affected by SARS of the opportunity to share their experiences.

“It was one of the biggest challenges for me,” she said, of celebrity worship and narcissism. “Most of them just want to always be in front. We had to start profiling [speakers].”

It’s a sentiment also shared by Oriye.

“Celebrities are great for amplification, but they are not movement leaders,” she said, arguing that many are ill-informed and have, in the past, diverted attention away from knowledgeable activists.

Apart from raising awareness about police brutality and coordinating protests on the ground, various #EndSARS organisers used social media to connect with volunteers, accept donations from other parts of the world and publish accounts of disbursed funds through frequent updates.

Information about emergency helplines and ways to circumvent a potential internet shutdown also spread freely and widely.

Essentially, observers say, social media democratised the #EndSARS movement, allowing users with varying numbers of followers to pitch, improve or reject ideas, solicit donations or start food banks to feed protesters.

“This entire movement was born, bred and salvaged online,” said Chioma Agwuegbo, communications lead for Not Too Young to Run, an advocacy group dedicated to getting young Nigerians into public office. “There was a constant reminder that there was no leader, [which] helped strengthen people’s voices and close any avenue for compromise.”

On the news front, web-based publications largely run by and geared towards millennials kept the protest in the fore alongside witnesses armed with smartphones, as most traditional media outlets – perhaps wary of running afoul of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation’s directive to be cautious with user-generated content and to not “embarrass” the government – kept off.

Their reticence left protesters such as Nwoke disappointed.

“It hurt me personally that people were dropping dead on the street and news channels were showing a cooking show or talking about some irrelevant subject,” she said.

Demonstrators gesture during a protest against police brutality in Lagos [File: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters]

As the peaceful protests grew in size after entering their second week, gangs attacked protesters in various cities, including Lagos and the capital, Abuja. Thugs also vandalised public buildings, burned private businesses and stormed prison facilities to help inmates escape, prompting state governors to impose curfews to curb the escalating unrest.

On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari said 51 civilians were killed and 37 injured since demonstrations began, blaming the violence on “hooliganism.” He added that 11 policemen and seven soldiers had been killed by “rioters”.

Buhari’s statement came two days after Amnesty International put the death toll at 56, with about 38 killed on October 20, the same day security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in Lekki, in an attack that was livestreamed on Instagram by a witness and caused widespread outrage.

Amnesty said its on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International confirmed that the army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters in Lekki and Alausa, another area of Lagos where #EndSARS protests were being held. The army has denied the involvement of their men in the shooting.

Oriye expressed admiration for the dynamism of social media-savvy Nigerians.

“The Nigerian press refused to cover the issue initially, so it forced us to rely on social media to record information to preserve the truth and possible evidence,” she said.

Still, some Nigerians remain unconvinced by the video evidence. In a now-deleted tweet, an actress with more than one million followers seemingly cast doubt on the Lekki shooting, requesting the bereaved to “speak out”.

Others, however, are urging those with proof to store it in the cloud, away from potential government interference.

And despite the brutal clampdown, many see a silver lining.

“One of the things that would help us [gain political power] is community engagement,” said Nwoke. “That was something we tried to implement during the protest, educating people about the issues.”

For her part, Agwuegbo believes the events of the past two weeks have transformed Nigerian youth into a force to be reckoned with in the general elections less than three years from now.

“I think 2023 will be interesting for the future of the country because there’s rage,” she said. “But there’s also the realisation that if we come together and plan towards something, we can make it.”

Source:- Al Jazeera English

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New report on Quebec's written media pushes the provincial government to invest in the future – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
The Quebec government welcomed the results of a new commission on the future of news media in the province on Tuesday. 

In its report, the commission points out the steep decline in advertising revenue for daily and community newspapers, and suggests spearing two problems with a single thrust by encouraging the government to invest in COVID-centric advertising in the smaller Quebec papers.

This is not a new issue. In the last decade, written media in Canada has had a hard time making ends meet. Since 2010, the take in net advertising for daily newspapers fell by almost 66.5 per cent, plummeting from more than $2 billion to just $777 million, according to News Media Canada (NMC). 

Community papers were less hard hit by the loss, but still saw their ad revenue diminish by more than 45 per cent in that same time.

While daily and community news have been struggling, however, they continue to play an important role in the media lives of Quebecers. Indeed, while Internet news has become very prominent in advertising, not everyone has access to online media. 

“In many parts of Canada and in Quebec, broadband access is limited,” said Kelly Levson, the director of marketing and research for NMC. “Many sectors of the population, some of which are most relevant to the government’s communications efforts, are not online.”

The commission highlights this as well, warning that the decline of written media could create “media deserts” in more remote areas, and this possibility is closer than you might imagine. 

According to the commission’s report, the number of weekly or bi-weekly newspapers in Quebec was almost cut in half between 2011 and 2018, falling from 200 to 132 publications. This hasn’t been a complete death knell to the written news industry, however. 

“I think that there’s a big fallacy out there that the print newspapers are having some challenges,” Levson said, “but the challenge is not that people don’t read them. Nine out of 10 Canadians and Quebecers read newspapers. They’re interested in the content and we have the same reach as the digital diet from the United States.”

The issue, Levson says, is more one of convenience. Online advertising is quick, easy to do, and requires little commitment. By comparison, arranging for an ad to be printed in newspapers across the province is more difficult and time-consuming, although it also benefits the domestic industry more strongly.

“Why would you be spending money in California when you could be spending that money in the local communities,” he argued, “and strengthening those local communities at the same time as getting your information out?”

The commission seemed to agree in its report, pointing out that declining newspapers could also have knock-on effects on other parts of the industry. If most of these papers disappear, for instance, it could mean a significant loss of income for the Canadian Press who sells wires on Canadian news to smaller outlets that cannot cover these events. On top of that, losing outlets also means losing media diversity in the province as a whole.

“In Quebec, we have a very diverse press,” said Michaël Nguyen, the president of the Fédération Professionelle des Journalistes du Québec (FPJQ). “There’s something for everyone, for every point of view.”

“We’re quite well-serviced in terms on information in Quebec,” he added. “We have to maintain this (…). It’s a whole ecosystem and all of its parts are linked together.” 

The commission did not make specific budget recommendations in its report, although last year the provincial government had floated the idea of investing $250 million over five years into the industry. This year, government money is used to buys ads that inform Quebecers about COVID-19.

While this kind of investment is a good first step, however, Nguyen says it must be a sustained effort if newspapers in Quebec are to thrive again. 

“This year is quite exceptional,” Nguyen pointed out. “And we can’t expect investment to always be this positive.” 

And continued investment is certainly one of the most needed steps beyond this year. 

“We have to maintain the quality of information we have in Quebec, which is our pride” Nguyen added, “Whether in francophone or anglophone media, we have to carry on. The report already says that the government maintains and improves advertising subsidies, and that it’ll take more than that.” 

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Boeing 737 MAX returns to skies with media onboard – National Post

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Article content continued

A smooth return to service for the MAX is seen as critical for Boeing’s reputation and finances, which have been hit hard by a freeze on MAX deliveries as well as the coronavirus crisis.

It is bracing for intense publicity from even routine glitches by manning a 24-hour “situation room” to monitor every MAX flight globally, and has briefed some industry commentators on details on the return to service, industry sources said.

Boeing has said that airlines will take a direct role in demonstrating to passengers that the 737 MAX is safe.

“We are continuing to work closely with global regulators and our customers to safely return the fleet to commercial service,” a spokesman said.

Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes is planning a similar media event this month, with cautious hopes to fly its first commercial flights as soon as next week.

CEREMONY SCRAPPED

The PR efforts are designed to highlight software and training upgrades which the FAA has said remove any doubt about the plane’s safety.

But families of some victims of the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia have protested the return to service, saying it is premature before a final investigative report on the second crash has been released.

Boeing toned down its original plans for the plane’s return as the crisis dragged on longer than it expected – scrapping a high-profile publicity campaign, a ceremony in the Seattle area and a tour using an Oman Air 737 MAX, industry sources said.

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – Canora Courier

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

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Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

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