“Social Media and Support for Free Speech and Democracy in Central Africa”

June 14, 2016
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm



About the Event

While many countries in Africa face restrictive media environments, the Central African region stands out as a bastion for repression of freedom of expression. The governments of the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular, make great attempts to stifle the press and limit free speech in their countries. Despite such repression, however, social media is playing an increasingly important role in activists’ attempts to combat the undemocratic tendencies of their countries’ leaders. In his presentation, Elie Smith will discuss the ways that journalists, bloggers, activists, and ordinary citizens are harnessing social media to promote free speech and push for democratic change in the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His presentation will be followed by comments by Pierre Tantchou.


Elie Smith, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by

Pierre Tantchou, National Endowment for Democracy

moderated by

Zeroes Spencer, International Forum for Democratic Studies

About the Speaker

Mr. Elie Smith is a Cameroonian journalist, reporter, and translator who has worked with a number of Central African and French media outlets, including Télésud, France 24, Canal France International, and Radio France International.  He served most recently as director of the MNTV television station in Congo-Brazzaville, in which capacity he encouraged the practice of investigative journalism and helped promote free speech by providing a safe space for politicians and civil society activists to express their views.  His work in support of freedom of expression and anticorruption has earned him recognition as Best TV Reporter in Congo-Brazzaville (2014), but has also led to reprisals against him and his family. During his fellowship, Mr. Smith is exploring the influence of social media on the consolidation of free speech and democracy in Central Africa, with plans to work on a book manuscript documenting his experience as a journalist in the region. Pierre Tantchou is assistant program officer for Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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