Samedi, Août 24, 2019

Media professionals to counter hate speech in Cameroon crisis

Media professionals to counter hate speech in Cameroon crisis

Douala 11 January 2019

The campaign that starts in February 2019 will aim at deescalating the crisis in the restive English speaking regions of the country.

Douala 11 January 2019 - Over 30 journalists covering the crisis in the English speaking regions of Cameroon agreed to launch a campaign to counter hate speech and incitement to hatred, that have escalated the crisis in recent months. They met in Douala for a two-day sensitization seminar organised by the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa.

Drawn from audio-visual, print and online media organs in the North West, South West, Littoral, Centre and West regions, the journalists examined the causes of continuing violence in the two regions and strategies to combat them. Amongst the causes identified were hate speech and incitement to hatred, use of discriminatory messaging on media, including by popular opinion leaders, and the lack of a counter narrative to discriminatory and hate speech.and incitement to hatred, use of discriminatory messaging on media, including by popular opinion leaders, and the lack of a counter narrative to discriminatory and hate speech.

The February campaign will feature a massive media sensitization and awareness raising aimed at changing the narrative. Several preliminary activities are ongoing in preparation for the campaign launch. Amongst them is the preparation of a code of conduct for media professionals on crisis reporting and countering hate and incitement to hatred.

Media professionals to counter hate speech in Cameroon crisis

By organising the sensitization seminar, the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa intended to promote professional conduct amongst media professionals covering the crisis in the English speaking regions, with a view to reducing the proliferation of messages that incite hatred and tension.

The seminar focused on experience sharing and auto-critique of a collection of newspaper headlines and reports. Presentations on hate speech according to international human rights law and its consequences on society preceded the discussion sessions. Simulation exercises aiming at developing newsroom good practice and positive messaging were also part of the seminar.

The 2018 Presidential elections offered an opportunity to end the crisis. However, despite measures to reduce tensions, including the discontinuance of legal proceedings against some 289 persons arrested in connection with the crisis, devastating ghost towns and fighting between Cameroonian forces and non-state armed groups have continued.Cameroon’s English speaking regions have been home to a devastating socio-political crisis since October 2016 when common law lawyers and teachers respectively protested against marginalisation and ‘erosion’ of the Anglo-Saxon system of education. Failed negotiations and government’s choice of a military option to solve the crisis led to an armed conflict that has displaced over 437.000 persons within the 2 regions and other neighbouring regions, and over 30.000 across the border into Nigeria since January 2018.

The international community has called for an inclusive dialogue to end the crisis.