By Lolyne Ongeri
They say a pen is mightier than a sword, so imagine the power of 15, 000 pens or rather blogs. In a report done by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), the number of bloggers is 15, 000 and is still rising. This rise has been attributed to the increasing number of people using the internet and social media platforms and the desire for the common mwananchi to express their views without fear. Many people have questioned the actual role of the mass media and consequently blogging in ensuring the democracy of a country.
Media acts as an interface between the common man and the Government. It is a very powerful tool with the ability to make and break the opinion of people. It has the ability to influence public opinion; it has the capacity to swing perceptions or evoke emotions. This is what it has gained – faith of public.
The Republic of Kenya is perceived as a democracy, governed by the Constitution of Kenya: ‘34(1) Freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media is guaranteed.’ This means that it is safe to say that one indicator of democracy is the freedom of the media. This entails informing the public of the good and the bad that happens in the society without the fear of being shut down.
In the recent years, the media has been experiencing challenges where the government has been interfering with its activities by coming up with legislations that threaten the freedom the media the society has so much fought obtain.
Hence, the presence of blogs and other online media platforms have become a fundamental part in ensuring the continuity of the freedom of information and expression. Blogs do not just inform; they convince people. They enable conversations from one citizen to another on issues that affect them. Blogging, at its core, is an individual describing truth, expounding opinion and perpetrating belief.
It is a community, a kamukunji and a platform where the blogger stands on a pulpit and have his voice heard while the internet is a medium where a quick search finds you many individuals speaking on a multitude of topics. The individual becomes an empowered being who is constantly trying to convince.
Blogs have brought to light issues that have previously been killed by the mainstream media. Bloggers have become activists, informers and educators. Because the web allows for each person to share information instantly with few barriers to entry across a common infrastructure, blogging is often held up as an example of the potential power of a media democracy.
The effect of blogging and social media has been seen before. For example, The use of digital social networking technologies to promote political dissent and reform was apparent in the widespread protests in the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring where social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allowed citizens to quickly connect with one another, exchange information, and organize protests against their governments. While social media cannot solely be credited with the success of these protests, the technologies played an important role in instilling change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
These acts show a population can be informed through alternative media channels, and can adjust its behavior accordingly. Bloggers have the power to change the society. They have the power to influence opinion and they have the power to change the mindset of a society and consequently influence democracy.
Lolyne Ongeri is an intern at BAKE and a communications student at Maseno University.