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Research engagement #1 to Nairobi, Kenya

Charlotte Freihse, Dr. Joachim Rother, Ralph Müller-Eiselt
12. June 2023 – 16. June 2023


Our international good-practice research is supported and enriched by regional research engagements, consisting of workshops and bilateral discussions with decision-makers, experts, and relevant stakeholders, who we are bringing together in one comparatively central location in each region. The goal of these research trips is to create a space for exchange amongst experts and mutual learning of each other’s contexts to jointly explore the landscape of counter-disinformation initiatives, pro-democracy mobilisations efforts, and highlight particularly promising examples and good practices. In addition, networking with and among the respective actors aims to foster strong collaborations, alliances, and knowledge transfer, including assessing ideas for their potential to successfully strengthen counter-disinformation efforts in Europe and Germany. 

Focus: Role of the media, fact-checking and elections

Our first research trip took place from June 12th to June 16th, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya. Together with our regional partner, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), we conducted a two-day conference with 25 participants from over 15 different African countries. It was followed by two days of bilateral discussions with government representatives, representatives of civil society, such as Amnesty International and journalists. Below you will find a report and summary of our insights, impressions, and findings.

13. June 2023 Getting an overview, meeting the actors, understanding the challenges

How do you start a conference with 25 different people from over 15 countries that have never met each other? After some welcoming words offered by Juliet Nanfuka (CIPESA) and Ralph Müller-Eiselt (Bertelsmann Stiftung), participants had the opportunity of getting to know each other better through an interactive and engaging activity. Following on from this, the content work kicked off:  We were able to gain an overview of the disinformation landscape in the African context, diving deep into individual country specific case studies (with a focus on elections), and engaging in group discussions on different approaches and cooperation possibilities to better fight disinformation. The events’ mix of formats, including impulses, panel discussions and lively group activities as well as the dedication of participants to engage contributed to a very friendly and remarkably trustful atmosphere. Similarly, however, it enabled the productive gathering of interesting findings and further open questions.

You can find some visual impressions in the photos below.

14. June 2023 Analysis – Diving into the debate, connecting the dots

After reflecting on the findings and open questions from day 1, we dived right into the first session of our second day: “Beyond fact-checking: using innovation and current tech development to combat disinformation in Africa” presented by Africa Check. While day 1 mostly focused on overviews of the disinformation ecosystem and the country specific case studies, day 2 was all about presenting concrete measures for countering or disrupting disinformation at different levels and by different actors.

You can find some visual impressions in the photos below.

15.06. – 16.06.2023 / Meeting different stakeholders and gaining new perspectives

After two intense and insightful workshop days, we spent the last two days of our trip meeting stakeholders for bilateral talks and exchange. Through the conversations with Article 19 and Amnesty International, we gained insights into how civil society in the Africa region engages in topics at the intersection of ICT policy and human rights. While both organizations illustrated remarkable success stories of campaigns and measures to strengthen digital rights and democracy, they also highlighted their shared challenges: limited resources, restrictions, and threats.

Similar aspects were brought up by journalists that were met for background interviews. In a country like Kenya, where the media system is largely independent but faces fundamental structural challenges, they too run into considerable difficulties in doing their job – and certainly feel the pressure to live up to their essential role in the fight for truth and facts.

Both journalists and representatives of civil society follow the work of the government critically. On the one hand, they would welcome a greater provision of resources by the government. On the other they describe the government taking a passive role, in some cases even one so counterproductive, in that they are argued to contribute to disinformation in the country. With representatives of the Media Council of Kenya, an independent national institution established by the Media Council Act in 2007, we discussed this controversial positioning of the government – and the inherent potential of entities such as the Council to navigate and mediate between civil society and the government, assuring a much-needed cooperation and constant exchange.

Wrap up

Key takeaways of research trip #1 to Nairobi, Kenya



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