On Freedom Day, to celebrate fifteen years of democracy, I launched The Soapbox – a nonpartisan online platform where young South Africans can speak out about things they feel strongly about.
Why? Because South Africa is at a crossroads. Now more than ever is it important to use our freedom to ensure that democracy prevails in South Africa – that it is strengthened and sustainable. Periodic elections are not enough. A democracy can only live and flourish if citizens actively engage with important issues. Freedom of speech – and utilising that vital right – stimulates democracy by ensuring that power structures – from government and corporations to trade unions and NGOs – are held accountable for their actions and policies.
If we are silent and apathetic we are complicit in power abuse, in reinforcing mediocrity as a standard and in ensuring that an unsatisfactory status quo is maintained.
Many people feel that expressing their opinions about the burning issues of the day is pointless, because their voice will be ignored by mainstream media. Others feel alienated with regards to current, more rigid mediums of expression (such as the letters page of a newspaper) or intimidated by the rigours of maintaining a something like a blog on an ongoing basis.
The Soapbox takes all of these dynamics into account. By creating a platform for opinion online, The Soapbox is situated within a medium that young people are comfortable with. It also means that the project is easier to integrate with current modes of communication and social connection (such as Facebook) that young people use.
Sited in a political landscape characterised by the inanities and incitements of the likes Julius Malema, The Soapbox aims to fight political and cultural apathy and to foster tolerance and a culture of intelligent debate among young South Africans.
For more info, check out The Soapbox.
The Soapbox, an online platform where South Africans can speak out, launched yesterday on Freedom Day. Below is the post I wrote in “The Editor’s Notebook” on the site:
It’s fifteen years since South Africa became a democracy, and we’re launching today in celebration of this. But furthermore, we chose Freedom Day because of the importance that free speech has in ensuring that our democracy continues, and flourishes in the years to come. Stimulating, supporting and fighting for free speech is what The Soapbox is all about.
South Africa has had a tempestuous, momentous, exhilarating and sometimes tragic decade-and-a-half of freedom. Now more than ever before it is essential that young people speak out about the things they feel strongly about. We simply cannot afford to be apathetic and silent. Our democracy, and the rights – such as free speech – which underscore it are too important for us to ignore the very real issues we face as a nation.
As you will see on the about page, The Soapbox “aims to fight political and cultural apathy and to foster tolerance and a culture of intelligent debate among young South Africans.” We can only achieve this with your support. So, quite simply, become a contributor – change the world. Tell your friends about The Soapbox. And write! We can really make a difference if we all, collectively, speak out.
I hope you enjoy the launch opinion pieces. We plan on updating The Soapbox as frequently as the flow of written contributions will allow. Soon we will also host our first speaker event. Very excitingly, we will also be launching the SoapBox fashion label.
Afrodissident has been shortlisted for two awards in the 2009 South African Blog Awards. Like last year, we’re a finalist in the Best South African Politics Blog category and for Best Original Writing on an SA blog.
To everyone who nominated us, a BIG thank you.
It would be hugely appreciated if you could cast your vote in the final round for Afrodissident. Click here or on the gold dogtag to go to the voting page.
Thanks for your support!
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group aimed at defending the rights of journalists, most journalists in jail are those using the web as their medium of choice — like bloggers, online reporters and web editors (thanks, Gino). A statement released on the CPJ’s website says the following:
- There are 125 journalists in jail worldwide.
- 45% (56) of these are internet journalists.
- China has the greatest number of journalists jailed (a record it’s held for the past decade).
- There are 29 despotic regimes that have imprisoned journalists including Egypt, Cuba, Eritrea, Burma and Uzbekistan.
Find out more here.
Forget the news channels — or the newspapers for that matter: when it comes to finding out what’s really going on, it looks like blogging is increasingly (but not neccesarily always) the answer.
The indispensable Global Voices Online, a blogging aggregation and summation project run out of Harvard, provides an in-depth look at the news that bloggers are providing, live out of the eastern Congo, in this post.
One of the most notable contributions is from the Virunga National Park’s official blog, Gorrila.cd, which is tracking the attempts of their rangers to reach the relative safety of Goma, fleeing the fighting between Congo’s national army and Tutsi rebels which has been happpening inside the park.
Stop Genocide’s blog provides some background insights into the complex dynamics of the east Congo conflict here.
With the advent of the web, the world is a much, much smaller place. We can no longer plead ignorance.
Afrodissident has had a facelift. We hope you like it.