The Free Info programme is buttressed on the belief that for society to prosper, there is need for openness, transparency and honest dialogue. That is not possible without access to credible, quality information. The programme thus promotes availability of public information to citizens. It seeks to ensure that there exist institutionalized provisions for access to information augmented by sufficient capacity amongst citizens to interrogate and utilise information to affect the way they are governed, shape their engagements in society and promote inclusive sustainable development.
The rise of globalization has increased the interconnectedness of the world. Through the internet, creation and sharing of information across vast distances and to a wide audience has become easier. Further, most governments have established various policy and legal frameworks guaranteeing citizens freedom of expression and right to access information. While, in overall, this has been a good thing, the world is grappling with the ever-growing challenge of disinformation and misinformation. “Fake news”, which refers to the spread of inaccurate information, has become quite rampant; a situation made even worse and complex by the rise in the use of social media.
For the Covid-19 pandemic response, the spread of Covid-19, false information regarding fake cures, wild conspiracy theories on the origin of the virus and false and harmful health advice have dominated various media platforms, especially social media. There have also been instances of the disinformation being channeled through mainstream media, especially through politicians and leaders/individuals in the public limelight. The spread of false information and, overall, disinformation threatens the effectiveness of the response strategies and effective combat of the Covid-19 pandemic. It creates confusion, fear and distrust between citizens, healthcare professional and governments.
Increasing risks and adverse impacts of the spread of potentially harmful content threaten social harmony. Like many other countries, Kenya faces the threat of harmful online content. With majority of social media users being the youth, the proliferation of fake news, disinformation and hate speech has increased exponentially. The vibrancy of the youth on the platforms makes it easy for harmful content to spread and reach wider masses faster.
We aim, through this programme, to contribute to collective efforts towards addressing misinformation, disinformation and other forms of harmful online content that could potentially incite violence. We seek to work inn concerto and in collaborate with both state and non-state actors to mobilise resources, ideas, voices and knowledge towards harnessing the positive attributes of social media – leveraging it to promote peace and active civic engagement across the East African region.
Through this programme, we advise development partners on progressive approaches to delivering development assistance targeted at strengthening citizen engagement in government and improving access to information (through law, institutions and political will). We work in partnership with multiple stakeholders like development partners, governments and civil society to implement programmes targeted at developing capacities of local media (especially community radios) on how to sustainably engage, inform and entertain citizens. We implement capacity development work targeting young people – leaders, journalists, content creators and influencers on utilising Media Information Literacy as a tool for enhancing civic engagement, reducing extremism, tackling disinformation online, and supporting information efforts to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.