Can Kenyan people play active roles in public diplomacy?

This article on the US Department of State Official Blog talks about the Association of Performing Arts Presenter’s annual conference, and stresses the critical role of cultural diplomacy and the importance of freedom of expression and an open dialogue.

However, what I found more interesting about this page is the comment made by “Kenyan youth” to this article. Kenya is one of two countries our group is focusing on. (The other countries is Angola.) He said he is looking for a way to empower youths because their “leaders have shown no or little efforts to empower” Kenyan people to raise their concerns.

What I found next is an article about a new media law in Kenya. This new law could apply to “bloggers, citizen reporters, and even social media users,” and has the power to impose high fines on media institutions and individuals. It also reports that two people, who sold pirated copies of an American movie “The Wolf of Wallstreet,” were arrested “not for piracy, but for the film itself.”

The restriction of the film has been causing controversy, and there are numerous comments criticizing the ban on the Facebook page. Some comments point out the limitation of the control since Kenyan people have other ways to access the movie, through the internet, even if it is banned to distribute the movie within Kenya.

Cull writes in his article “Listening for the Hoof Beats,” that social media is dramatically changing the nature of public diplomacy that has been “a top-down articulation of policies and priorities.”

Huijgh states, “Successful public diplomacy starts at home” in her Changing Tunes for Public Diplomacy.

Even if the government is reluctant to empower their people to express themselves freely and to address  issues of their concern, is it still possible for their people to play active roles in public diplomacy initiatives?


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