By Neville Mesumbe
The Desk Editor of The Post, Isidore Abah, has been awarded a Grade of Excellence after his brilliant public defence presentation for the award of a Master of Science Degree in Journalism.
The defence took place on Friday, November 13, at the Boardroom of the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences in the University of Buea.
The candidate investigated the role of Facebook propaganda in conflict escalation, case of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis.
The researcher argues that in this contemporary era of information superhighway, the audience is laden by loads and loads of information. During such period of information hysteria, Abah stresses that most people are not able to distinguish between false and authentic information.
“If the citizens are not well educated on what constitutes propaganda, types of propaganda, techniques of propaganda and how propaganda manifests itself, many will continue to consume propagandists’ messages as news and may become conveyors of propagandists’ ideologies and agendas without knowing, given that studies have shown a direct correlation between media consumption and audience behaviour, ” Abah said.
He further mentioned that the consumption of Facebook messages has the tendency to escalate or deescalate a conflict, depending on whether the information is against the audience’s beliefs or pre-conceived values and ideologies.
The researcher’s empirical thought aligns with reality. In January 2017, the Government shutdown the internet in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon for 93 days, because of the negative role played by social media platforms, notably; Facebook, WhatsApp, in fanning the flames of the Anglophone Crisis.
The researcher content-analysed the Facebook walls and pages of eight propagandists in the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis. The eight activists included four pro-Government: Frankline Njume, Suzzy Sparks, Epanty Epanti Vally, Ma Kontri Pipo Dem (MKPD) and four Separatists: Mark Bareta, Tapang Ivo, Chris Anu, and Eric Tataw.
Abah discovered that there is a direct relationship between activists’ online messages and offline demonstrations. He stressed that most of the offline demonstrations, protests, killings, burnings, kidnappings, and school boycotts had their roots online.
According to the author, individuals consumed propaganda messages online and went offline to implement the messages.
To mitigate the negative influence of Facebook on the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis, the author stated that there is an urgent need for the population to be sensitised and educated on the elements that constitute a news article and how news can be differentiated from propaganda.
He urged the Minister of Communication to organise seminars to train the population on media literacy.
This, he said, will enable the population to be able to identify what a news article and a propaganda piece is when they come across it.
He also beseeched journalism training institutions like the Department of Journamlism and Mass Communication in the University of Buea, the Advanced School of Mass Communication, ASMAC, Siantou University, the National Polytehnic Bambui and the University of Bamenda to embark on outreach programmes to educate the communities on what constitutes news and propaganda.
Like he puts it, “the jobs of journalists are under threats because the profession has been invaded and hijacked by quacks. This posses a serious problem not only to media credibility but also journalism practice as a whole.”
He equally urged all owners of conventional media organs to embrace the social media as the new communication order and have an active social media presence, especially Facebook pages, where the population can turn to for authentic and variable news.
Speaking to The Guardian Post after his brilliant defence, Abah praised his Supervisor, Dr. Kingsley Ngange, for his altruistic contribution towards the realsation of prejoct.
“I am indebted to my Supervisor, Dr Ngange, for his immense contribution to the realisation of this academic piece. He, once again, exhibited his shrewd academic savoir faire and his proficiency in the subject matter of his research. He was not only a Supervisor, but a father, an acadmic mentor, and a friend, who was always ready to listen to my corncerns and challenges. Even at the zenith of the COVID-19 pandemic, where every body was a suspect, Dr. Ngange and his family opened their doors to me. I have never seen such academic humility and hospitality. I am indeed grateful,” Abah avered.
He also thanked the two Associates Professors who manned his defence panel, Victor Ngu Choe as Chairperson and Julius Che Tita as Examiner for their valuable contributions to make the academic piece better.
“They two Associate Professors were simply phenomenal, Abah stated” Isidore Abah is just of the 17 Masters in Journalsim and Mass Communication candidates that defended their desertations in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University Buea from November 10 to 13, 2020.