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Free speech, not hate speech

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first_img9 February 2006As the controversy over the Muslim cartoons continue to stoke violence and debate across the world, the South African government has come out strongly in support of freedom of speech, while acknowledging the hurt caused to Muslims and warning against hate speech.In a statement issued after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, the government said it “acknowledges the hurt” the cartoon portrayal of Prophet Mohammed had caused Muslims “in our country and across the globe”.“We appreciate the fact that, on the whole, South Africans affected by this development have sought to find one another in a spirit of mutual respect,” said government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe.“South Africa upholds the principle of freedom of speech.“However, we do appreciate that our Constitution enjoins us, in exercising this right, to respect the sensitivities of individuals and communities, and to eschew actions that may be interpreted as hate speech.”Referring to the high court order granted over the weekend to bar South African newspapers from reprinting the cartoons, Netshitenzhe said that the government preferred to see editorial decisions about what to publish being made by the media alone. However, the Cabinet “is of the view that all of us should respect decisions of our courts and, where necessary, use the mechanisms of recourse available in our judicial system”.He emphasised the government’s stand that the media’s right to freedom of speech should be finely balanced with other rights protected in South Africa’s Constitution, adding that the government was encouraged by talks between the Independent Newspapers group and Muslim leaders.South African Muslims are set to join the worldwide campaign against the cartoons this week, Business Day reports. Thousands are expected to heed a call by the Muslim Judicial Council and march on the Danish consulate in Cape Town today.Netshitenzhe called for calm during the protests and said the government would ensure that the protests did not lead to violence. “There has been interaction with the Danish embassy and we will assist with beefing up security in the light of the current developments,” he said.SouthAfrica.info reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Ritu Bhatia on making a splash to fight a disease

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first_imgIt’s been a strange fortnight, during which images of dripping wet people have appeared regularly in the media. Torrential rains? Floods? Colourless Holi? A closer look at the pictures reveal that the subjects are actually pouring water over their own heads as part of the ‘Ice bucket challenge’, a health campaign that has taken social media by storm since August 7. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Taylor Swift joined thousands of Americans in dumping freezing cold water over their heads to raise awareness of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a debilitating genetic disorder.The game began when a Boston college baseball star suffering from ALS posted a video of himself on Facebook to raise money for the cause. Players were given 24 hours to either pour a bucket of ice-cold water on their heads on camera, or donate $100 for the cause to a charity. The campaign went viral. So far, $15.6 million has been raised for ALS, and charities say this shivery endeavour has been a “game changer” for the disease.Bill Gates poured a bucket of ice cold water over his head to raise awareness about ALS disease. The success of the Ice bucket challenge reflects the power of the social media in raising public awareness of health issues: Facebook, Twitter, blogs and mobile texting are ideal platforms for health promotion and agencies are quickly waking up to their potential to rally support for health causes among a broader audience.At one time, sporting a tiny pink or red ribbon was enough. Pink stood for breast cancer and red for HIV/AIDS, and whosoever displayed a ribbon of either colour was considered a health advocate. Today, this kind of gesture would be lost in the cesspool of messages that inundate us. No wonder health promotion campaigns are moving beyond the traditional broadcasting of public service announcements. Bold, creative and entertaining ways of raising awareness about a cause are required to claim the attention of the public and social media are central to campaigns. With over one billion users, Facebook is the ideal forum for dissemination of health information, from updates about epidemics like the Ebola virus, information about flu vaccination, or tips about preventable health issues.advertisementExperts say that the social network has a powerful influence on people’s response to health issues. Using one’s Facebook status to raise awareness about issues is a popular strategy. This has been used by breast cancer charities in a playful manner with a campaign in which women wrote their bra colour in their status, as a way of educating people.Oprah Winfrey is another celebrity who took part in the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge.The #nomakeupselfie was also big hit in the UK earlier this year, and began when women posted pictures of themselves without makeup on Twitter and Facebook, urging their friends to do the same.The theme was cancer awareness and a host of celebrities that included Beyonc and Rihanna posted selfies and pledged donations to cancer charities, urging others to follow suit by texting a message to a number that collected three pounds per message for Cancer Research UK. The Oscar selfie that went viral may have fuelled the enormous response to the no makeup selfie campaign, which collected over eight million pounds for cancer.Sadly, India centric social media campaigns haven’t really made their presence felt in the sphere of public health. All we have at the moment are advertisements directed at consumers on Facebook by healthcare companies and insipid status updates by agencies working in healthcare.Twitter, so far, has also been highly underutilised to promote such causes.The longer we ignore the reach of social media, the further we will fall in our efforts to raise awareness about health issues of national importance. Public health lobbies need to deliberate on ways to use the social media effectively. Some issues that must be addressed are: Who is the audience? What impact is sought, what changes in behaviour/outcomes can be expected?How should messages be designed for maximum impact?The leverage offered by the social network is immense. If an advertiser can get a message in front of you based on your surfing habits within seconds of you clicking on a webpage, imagine the potential that exists for a strategically placed health message.The rising popularity of veg eggsWe shouldn’t have to wait too long before this hits the shelves here. The idea of eggless mayonnaise would excite vegetarians and a variety called Just Mayo that hit the US market eight months ago, has drawn the attention of businessmen and chefs alike for its market potential and delicious flavour. What sets this mayonnaise apart is that it has been made with a plant product called the “eggless egg” instead of eggs, created by a San Francisco company called Hampton Creek.This vegetarian egg contains ground peas, sorghum etc. and can be used as an egg substitute for any product at all, from mayonnaise to cakes and cookies. And guess what else? Eggless eggs are actually more nutritious and cost less than regular eggs. In fact, plant based substitutes may soon replace fats and sugars too.advertisementPower of the peelDon’t toss away the peel of the lemon you have just squeezed the juice from. Lemon peels contain 5-10 times more vitamins than the lemon juice itself and are packed with compounds such as salvestrol Q40 and limonene, which fight cancerous cells. Eating peel also offers protection against osteoporosis, decreases cholesterol levels and minimises the risk of developing high BP. So grate the peel and sprinkle it on salads and other foods instead of discarding it.Spotlight on suicideActor Robin Williams was famously quoted as saying, “You’re only given a little spark of madness! Don’t lose it.” The recent tragedy of Williams’ suicide has left the world reeling, and it’s hard to imagine that someone with his ability to make people laugh was actually battling depression.Mental illness is often invisible, largely because of the stigma attached to it. This makes it harder to tackle one of its disastrous consequences, suicide, which is the eighth highest cause of deaths in the world. Over one lakh people in India commit suicide every year.According to a 2013 report entitled Crime in India, there has been a 21.6 per cent rise in the number in the past decade. The top reasons cited are family problems and illness followed by poor mental health and addictions. But suicides are preventable and experts say that raising awareness about the causes is essential. “We need to develop a national suicide prevention strategy,” says Dr. Samir Parikh, Director, Dept of Mental Health & Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.last_img read more