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Head of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) and Senior Research Fellow
Nicole Stremlau is Head of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and Research Professor in the Humanities at the University of Johannesburg. She is currently leading a large ERC project on the Politics and Practice of Social Media in Conflict. Her research focuses on media and governance, particularly in areas of conflict and insecurity in Africa. Her recent projects examine the role of new media in political participation and governance; media law and regulation in the absence of government or in weak states; the role of media in conflict, peacebuilding and the consolidation of political power; and how governments attempt to engage citizens and communicate law-making processes, particularly constitution-making. She has recently led Oxford's contribution to a large EU project on media and democratization conflicts (MeCODEM). Stremlau's doctoral work explored the role of media during the guerrilla insurgencies in Uganda and Ethiopia, and how the successive governments used the media to consolidate political power in the aftermath of violence.
While Stremlau continues to research and write on Ethiopia, her more recent research has been on media and conflict in Somalia and Somaliland, which has received funding from the United Nations, among others.
As Head of PCMLP, Stremlau develops and manages international programmes on media law and policy, including the Price Media Law Moot Court Programme. She has established links between PCMLP with universities, law firms and media companies in India, China, Eastern Africa and the Middle East. Stremlau is co-director of the annual Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute, a researcher and author for the Horn of Africa for the annual Freedom House Press Freedom Rankings and an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Global Communications Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.
While at PCMLP she has been awarded several grants for advancing her research as well as the agenda of the programme, including support from the Open Society Foundations, the United Nations, and the European Union. She was recently a co-investigator on the project “Reframing Local Knowledge: ICTs, Statebuilding and Peacebuilding in Eastern Africa” funded by the Carnegie Corporation and recently completed an ESRC-funded project on China’s role in shaping the information systems in Africa.
Prior to coming to PCMLP, Stremlau was director of the Africa programme at the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research where she initiated a led the East African Journalists Fellowship Programme, as well as research projects on media and election violence and public opinion research in Darfur. She has been a regular contributor to Janes Intelligence Review and has consulted for the World Bank in Addis Ababa as well as for Human Rights Watch. Stremlau lived in Ethiopia for several years where she conducted research and spent a year as a features writer at the Ethiopian Reporter.
Research was profiled by the National Endowment for Democracy highlighting 10 of the most significant academics that have contributed to empirical understandings of the relationship between media and governance. (NED, 2012. Is there a Link Between Media and Good Governance? What the Academics Say)
BA with honors, College of Social Studies, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT.
MA, International Politics, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK.
PhD, Department of International Development, London School of Economics (LSE), London, UK.
- There is an evolution underway in terms of how Internet access is perceived and understood. The view that Internet access should be a fundamental right has continued to gain traction. At the same time, concerns are increasing about the very real threat of offline harm posed by the dissemination of misinformation and hate speech online. This Special Section looks at these tensions within the context of one particularly extreme solution to perceived online threats: shutting off Internet access. While Internet shutdowns have now occurred across nearly all continents, they are on the rise in Africa, where some of the longest shutdowns have taken place. This Special Section brings together authors from law, communications, political science, and human rights to encourage a reevaluation of how we understand Internet shutdowns by reframing how they are situated within a broader landscape of other censorship and infrastructure challenges. The articles in this collection examine the causes and effects of shutdowns in the African context and challenge our current thinking about them.Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In the past few years, an escalation of this blunt censoring practice has affected different regions of the world, particularly Africa and Asia. Scholars and advocates have proposed no substantive solutions to effectively address Internet shutdowns, and analysis has largely been limited to examining the negative effects through data about their frequency, duration, and economic costs. This article attempts to move beyond the polarized debate between “keep it on” and “shut it off” to explore how there can be more transparency around decision-making processes behind Internet shutdowns. We also discuss the limits of law when it comes to the imposition and implementation of shutdowns. Shutdowns tend to be imposed somewhat arbitrarily with little process. Bringing back legal arguments into the exploration of the justifications around shutdowns may make the use of shutdowns less frequent and more limited, when they do occur.This article explores the prevailing ways Internet shutdowns are currently understood and makes the case for a new conceptualization—one that recognizes the inherent diversity of cases and how and why they are employed. To do so, we focus on Internet shutdowns in Africa, drawing on data collected during our ongoing research into the politics and practice of social media and conflict in Africa. Though Africa is not the only continent on which Internet shutdowns are taking place, it provides a landscape where the presence of various alternative versions of shutdowns produces important reactions and policy outcomes. A spectrum approach allows for more nuanced conceptualization rather than thinking of shutdowns as a homogeneous technique. This recognizes the variations—both subtle and extreme—among different aspects of Internet shutdowns, including their frequency, duration, breadth, depth, and speed. It also helps to situate this practice more clearly within the wider landscape of other approaches to censorship and offers indications as to how Internet shutdowns might evolve in the future.
Journal Article (27)
Internet Publication (1)
Edited Book (2)
Presentation/Conference contribution (1)
Media and international development; Politics in the Horn of Africa and Eastern African; Media, conflict and peacebuilding; Freedom of expression
News articles for Nicole Stremlau
CALL FOR ABSTRACTS- Technology and Governance: Exploring law and innovation in the absence of state governance
International Journal of Communication Publishes a Special Section on Internet Shutdowns in Africa
Media Policy Summer Institute 2020 applications are now open
2019 Media Law & Policy Summer Institute applications are now closed
A tale of two publics? Online politics in Ethiopia’s elections by Prof. Nicole Stremlau
PCMLP Summer Institute Alumni: '37 Front Street File: Now we know what you did last summer'
'Media, Conflict and the State in Africa' by Prof. Nicole Stremlau
UN launch of World Trends in Freedom of Expression
'Conflicting trends': global struggle for media freedom in the spotlight
Events organised by Nicole Stremlau
09 Feb 2021
Tuesday - 2:00PM
The Changing Landscape of Internet Shutdowns in Africa: A Roundtable Discussion
28 Jan 2021
Thursday - 11:00AM
Beyond the State: Law, Innovation and Digital Technologies