Participants at Defyhate Now training session
By Francis Tim Mbom
“Journalists need to be aware that they can change the course of a conflict in their reporting by shaping beliefs, behaviours and public policies…Journalism can provoke peace.”
The above is a statement that was made last week by a Conflict Sensitive and Peace Building Journalism trainer during a three-day workshop that was organised by Defyhatenow Cameroon in collaboration with the Africa Knowledge and Policy Center, Yaounde and in partnership with UNESCO Cameroon.
The training that took place at Seme, West Coast Sub Division, ran from Thursday, June 24th to Saturday, June, 26. The organisers said it was prompted by the way Journalists have been reporting on the ongoing bloody conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
Given the primordial role that Journalism can play in bringing peace during conflict situations, the organisers brought together a total of 25 Journalists from the Southwest region who were trained on how best they can contribute to bring a solution to the conflict.
This, the trainers said, they could do by filtering aspects of hate speech, misinformation, fake or false news in their reporting. They were trained to tailor their reporting in such a way that can build peace, move both parties to seek solutions rather than promote or prolong the conflict.
During the three-day exercise, Eugene Nforngwa, Blaise Abong, two renowned Peace Building and Conflict Sensitive Journalism trainers drawn from the Africa Knowledge and Policy Center, AKPC, Yaounde, drilled the participants on the tools they need to report in a manner that will promote peace and usher solutions to conflicts.
One of the key topics that the Journalists were treated to was: “Public Journalism.”
By this, the trainers said Journalists were invited to play the role of Peace Journalists or advocacy Journalists.
And as concerns the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest, Journalists will, for the sake of peace to reign, graduate from their position of neutrality to play an interventionist role and push forward issues which can lead to a solution and, ultimately, peace.
Journalists, the trainers said, will have to be a channel for communication between the two parties while making sure that what is channelled as information to the public is free from hate speech or incendiary language.
For hate speech, such as was evident in some English Language newspaper headlines reports about the recent kidnappings in Ndian Division, can rather go to fuel the conflicts than calm tempers.
The media, they insisted, has to highlight points that can lead to a solution and not prolong the conflict; a reporting that ensures fairness and justice to all parties concerned in the conflict.
“Peace Journalism is concerned about bringing the two sides in a conflict towards resolving their problem,” the trainers said.
The trainers treated the Journalists to the topic, “Causes of Conflicts” and said for the Journalists to succeed in bringing two sides to a solution in a conflict, they needed to know the root causes of that conflict; know the issues that divide the parties. The Journalists, too, will need to know what triggered the conflict and what can be done to enable the sides to move beyond their differences to embrace points that lead to peace.
For instance, in the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions that has been raging for the past four years, pundits have identified sincere and genuine dialogue with a readiness for each side to compromise on certain hard-line issues as the only way that can lead to peace. They hold that the deployment of more weapons and troops or fighters on the ground won’t lead to peace or a resolution of the crisis.
The current picture of the ongoing conflict raging between the Government forces and Separatists Fighters in the NW and SW presently looks too grim and terribly bloody to be minimised any further.
The war has already claimed thousands of lives, led to the destruction of countless numbers of businesses and rendered thousands of other persons homeless. A good number of children in the war torn areas have been out of school now for the past four years or have not been able to fully attend school since the crisis erupted in late 2016.
The Project Manager for the Central Africa Regional Office for UNESCO in Yaounde, Hugues Ndih, on behalf of his organisation, told the participants that the prevalence of hate speech in Cameron, as a consequence of the ongoing crisis and others, was getting to a very sensitive level. He said it was incumbent on the press to do something to mitigate it.
And it is the reason why, he said, UNESCO was partnering with Defyhatenow-Cameroon for the ongoing Media4Peace action.
“If you are reporting in a situation that is conflictual, make sure you remain a reporter…Let’s stop the flow of hate speech. If we all put our hands together, we can do more to stop this crisis through our reporting,” Ndih said.
On behalf of the organisers, Desmond Ngala, Laure Nganlay, officials of Defyhatenow, Central Africa-Cameroon thanked the participants and urged them to ensure that as they go they will report in such a way as to end hate speech in Cameroon and let peace be the order of the day.
The Media4Peace Action which is out to catalyse the media to promote peace which Defyhatenow is implementing in Cameroon is being sponsored by a German NGO, Rug_Agency.