As the COVID-19 epidemic spreads, many movements in the Middle East and North Africa chose online activism for their activities as quarantine limits have driven movements that formerly relied on the visibility and disruption of street protests off the streets, and online activism provides more space for the public to speak out and to be heard.
Digital Activism is the use of electronic communication technologies such as social media, e-mail, and podcasts for various forms of activism in order to enable citizen movements to communicate more quickly and effectively, as well as the delivery of specific information to large and specific audiences and coordination.
Activism in the Middle East can be threatening due to government surveillance and arbitrary laws that criminalize freedom of speech.
Because surveillance on digital activism can be easier and even more cost-effective for governments, As in Bahrain, where the government exploited photographs uploaded on social media to actively identify and arrest dissidents, or Syria, where higher levels of internet access were directly connected with more targeted violent repression by the government.
Innovation for Change Middle East and North Africa alongside local partners in Palestine “7amleh – Arab Center for Social Media Advancement” spotted the need for a digital activism forum for activists, journalists, members of civil society, policymakers, officials, social media companies for multi-stakeholder dialogue, knowledge sharing, and skill-building to encourage networking and resource sharing between key international, regional and local decision-makers, human rights defenders and human rights institutions.
The Digital Activism Forum brought together activists, journalists, members of civil society, policymakers, officials, social media companies for multi-stakeholder dialogue, knowledge sharing, and skill-building to encourage networking and resource sharing between key international, regional, and local decision-makers, human rights defenders and human rights institutions
Over the course of one week; I4C MENA and 7amleh implemented a series of activities that started with six workshops in Arabic that were held to introduce participants to the digital tools meant to enable activists and human rights defenders to mobilize and advocate for social justice causes online and carry out their campaigns more effectively. The workshops included topics such as how to use video and graphics, graphics in advocacy, design, campaign management, podcast development, and digital storytelling. The workshops were given by experts in the respective field and were held online and thus gathered a wide local and regional audience, with more than 160 participants and almost 7000 views of the live stream reaching almost 1.5 million on Facebook.
The online workshops were followed by two workshops in Haifa and Al Naqab in Palestine, discussing issues relating to digital activism and digital security, focused on how to utilize social media during the coronavirus for Women, Artists, and all activists in the region.