For digital influencers to be credible, they ought to remain professional at all times while preparing and disseminating messages to their followers. This is according to Dr James Oranga, a lecturer of Journalism at University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Dr Oranga made the remarks while facilitating at a 3-day media influencers’ forum on their role in countering violent extremism and terrorism on digital spaces organized by the IGAD Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE).
The Forum which took place at the Indian Coastal town of Mombasa, brought together influencers from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. It ended on Wednesday June 7.
Dr Oranga said professionalism breads trust and believability thus attracting serious followers and influence them towards a particular cause.
Violent extremism are beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.
“It is not just about having a big following, its quality is the key and for you to be followed by serious people and believe the message you disseminate, you must be credible. Credibility is earned by observing the professional requirements at all times,” Dr Oranga said on Tuesday.
Media influencers were asked not only ‘to set the agenda but also build the agenda’ so that their messages create an impact on the way their followers view the world around them.
Dr Simon Nyambura, the Director ICEPCVE, expressed his pleasure and that of the IGAD Executive Secretary to the participants for exhibiting high levels of professionalism and desire to counter violent extremism in the region.
“The IGAD Executive Secretary has sent you greetings and appreciation. He is following your work here online and appreciates it. He says you have taken on social media by storm, and has thus directed that we have more of this,” Dr Nyambura said.
“Despite the fact that it was his idea, we not only implemented it but you have also proved that it was long overdue. The messages you have developed are overwhelming and should continue using your platforms and intellectualism to spread the messages of peaceful coexistence of a secure and stable region,” he said.
He explained that the media being the oxygen of violent extremists and terrorists, the digital influencers need to know how to effectively use the social media spaces to spread positive messages with an aim of undermining violent extremists narratives.
Digital influencers were however told to be cautious while disseminating messages countering violent extremists narratives to reduce being deliberately targeted by terrorists for doing their work and refusing to be the mouthpieces of extremists and terror networks.
The participants who were grateful for the opportunity, pleged to apply the skilled acquired to strategically demystify disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech propagated by violent extremists.
The participants noted that there is a lot that extremists can do with digital spaces saying it is incumbent upon media influencers not to fall victim if unknowing ‘parroting’ their narratives.
“Are we unintentionally propagating violent extremists agenda? Indiscriminate sharing of terrorist attack concent for “news value” might inadvertently lead to spreading terrorism Agenda,” remarked one of the participants.
ICEPCVE seeks to promote knowledge sharing, best practices and enhancing cooperation amongst key stakeholders in the field of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE).
The Centre recognizes that given the increasing connectedness, the social media spaces offer, it is crucial that the fight against violent extremism shift ls to digital spaces.
Media Influencers often help to shape perceptions and alter attitudes of vulnerable individuals including those considering joining Extremists’ organizations, according to information on ICEPCVE website.
The Center says there is need to augment capacities of the media influencers to be able to recognize the violent extremists’ ideologies on the online platforms and the best strategies to apply to effectively undermine violent extremists’ ideologies.