Media practitioners and stringers from the South west and Littoral regions, have been trained on better ways of reporting conflicts emanating from elections and border crisis in Cameroon.
A workshop to that effect, took place recently in Buea, organized by a Buea-based non governmental organization, AFRICAphonie, with support from the British High Commission, Yaounde.
Resource persons at the workshop included erudite professor, Head of Department of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Professor Umaru Pate, Civil Society Activist, Prof. Tazoacha Asonganyi, Political Desk Editor at CRTV, Ashu Nyenty, and CRTV journalist, Henry Mekole.
In his presentation on the topic ‘’Election violence; Causes, Manifestations and Consequences’’, Prof Asonganyi identified elections as a major source of conflicts, which usually build up to, and degenerates into violence if not properly managed. He said, the instrumentalization of ELECAM by political parties, manipulation of the electorate, the violation of the rule of law as well as the fraudulent acquisition and effusive misappropriation of electoral spoils are key factors that could militate for electoral violence in Cameroon.
On his part, the political desk editor at CRTV, Ashu Nyenty focused on elections reporting drawing from his experience, covering presidential polls in Cote D’Ivoire and other African countries. The resource person elaborated the Do’s and Don’ts of the exercise, stressing on issues such as possible manipulation of reporters by politicians, the need for journalists to be balanced, proper attribution of sources and the practice of ‘’Peace Journalism’’, geared towards calming tempers rather than glorifying violence and conflicts. Another CRTV journalist Henry Mekole dwelt on practical precautions taken when he covered the border crisis in Bakassi.
The workshop reached its climax when the main guest speaker, Professor Umaru Pate began a series of revealing presentations and discussions on border conflict management and reporting. He said diversity on grounds of culture, sex, ethnicity, political and religious affiliations, as well as differences in level of social development are factors that contribute to cultural shocks which individuals and groups have to absorb, to avoid conflicts.
Consequently, the media cannot be dispassionate in conflict situations as they have a significant impact on the outcome, and promote the emergence of sound public policies that mitigate and manage diversity. For that to happen, practitioners need to have a deep understanding of prevailing realities, appreciate the values of pluralism, ethnic loyalties as well as avoid careless and shallow representations f religious differences. Subsequent presentations and discussions highlighted the role of the media in preventing or reporting conflicts, common professional challenges as well as the understanding and application of ‘’Peace Journalism’’ .
This concept, Prof Pate explained, has to do with the crucial social responsibility of journalists to employ professional judgment and ethics, to write what is descent capable of building society. That way, journalists transform conflicts from violent channels into constructive forms, by conceptualizing news, empowering the voiceless and seeking common grounds that unify rather than divide human societies. Participants were also drilled on efficient media conflict management techniques, how to watch out for early warning sign in potential conflict areas and how to handle conflicting parties as part of the Peace Journalism effort.
Other highlights of the workshop included group works and presentations, a courtesy call to the Southwest regional bureau of ELECAM, and a brief interaction with the British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Bharat Joshi. The workshop was moderated by seasoned journalist, Station Manager of CRTV Regional Station, South West- BUEA, and holder of a Masters Degree in Peace and development studies Bernard Eko.
BLESS ZOSHE (UB JOURNALISM Student On Internship).