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Aug. 25 (GIN) – Some 400 delegates from 36 African countries are expected to fill the halls at the 18th annual Highway Africa conference for media activism which takes place Sept. 7-8 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

The two-day event will explore how social media has impacted all aspects of our lives in the last ten years. Dan Gillmor, a U.S. professor of digital media literacy at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Community is the keynote speaker.

Gillmor, the author of We the Media (2004), describes the Internet as an opportunity for independent journalists to challenge the consolidation of traditional media and contains his widely cited realization: "my readers know more than I do."

The book offers a guide to new internet tools for journalists, including weblogs, RSS, SMS, peer-to-peer, and predicts how these tools will change journalism. His latest book, Mediactive, is on digital media literacy.

The conference will have a mix of panel discussions, training workshops, book launches and networking dinners. There are four distinct tracks in the program catering to the different core constituencies that are attending, ranging from mainstream journalists, academics, community media activists, to journalism students.

The conference will be preceded by council meetings of the African Editors Forum and the South African National Editors Forum.

In a related development, the African Media Initiative (AMI) this month launched a Pan-African campaign against hate speech at a panel discussion held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The panel brought together leading media figures from the Kenyan broadcasting station, NTV, which is part of East Africa's largest media conglomerate, the Nation Media Group; Eric Chinje, Chief Executive Officer of AMI; Nanjira Sambuli, researcher on online hate speech at the iHub; Fatuma Abdulahi, owner of Warya Post, Africa's fastest growing website; and Boniface Mwangi, award-winning photographer and social activist.

Examples of hate speech cited by conference organizers included the Ugandan media’s attack on the LGBT community. In one case “the 200 top homosexuals” were highlighted under the banner “Exposed!” on the front page of the paper Red Pepper.

“It’s happening all around us,” said AMI director Eric Chinje. “All of a sudden, Africa again is becoming the land of strife. It’s not like Rwanda in 1994 but there is a growing sense of exclusion on the continent, and the media appears to be a part of it.”

"The #TurnthePageonHateSpeech campaign serves 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," AMI said.

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