Sensitization workshop for Journalists on the electoral code on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2017

UNIC Yaounde in partnership with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa and UNESCO organized a series of activities at the Hotel Inn Resort in the coastal city of Limbe, South West Region of Cameroon to mark World Press Freedom Day 20017 in Cameroon from the 3 to 5 May 2017. The crux of the observance was the sensitization workshop for over 35 media professionals in Cameroon on the electoral code and their role in promoting informed participation in electoral processes, ahead of elections in 2018 in Cameroon.

  •  Round table conference on: 2017 WPFD theme, Freedom of Information, the right to know,
  • Panel Discussion on “How to overcome challenges to media freedom
  • Sensitization workshop for media professionals in Cameroon on the electoral code

 Day 1: Wednesday, 03 May 2017

Round table conference on: 2017 WPFD theme, Freedom of Information, the right to know

Moderated by Tarhyang Tabe, Publisher of “The Advocate” Newspaper, the round table began with the reading of the UN messages on the occasion of the 2017 WPF Day. UNIC’s Jean Njita read the message of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who called for an end to all crackdowns against journalists – because a free press advances peace and justice for all.” UNESCO’ Cletus Ojong (Communications) read the message of Mrs Irina Bokova (UNESCO’s Director General), while the Director of UN Centre for Human Rights Mr Ahowanou Agbessi read the message of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This set the pace for the round table.

UNIC’s Jean Njita presented the 2017 WPFD theme; “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”, highlighting the fact that living in such a critical time for journalists and press freedom, critical times require critical minds to better know what we read, listen and watch. Mr Njita emphasized media’s contribution to good governance and development as recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; which outlines the importance of public access to information and fundamental freedoms under SDG 16; Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Citing the 2016 UN Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, he stressed that the current state of safety of journalists worldwide is discouraging, as over the course of the last decade 827 journalists and media workers have been killed.

Mr. Franklin Fonyuy Kiven, Communications Officer at the UN Human Rights Centre talking on “Freedom of Information, the right to know”, stated that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies freedom of expression as a fundamental right. He further quotes The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Declaration of Principles adopted in 2003, which affirms that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation”.

Panel Discussion on “How to overcome challenges to media freedom

Panelists included CTRV’s Comfort Musa, UNIC’s Jean Njita, Adolf Mongo Dipoko (seasoned journalist), Kwi Bangsi and Tarhyang Tabe (The Advocate Newspaper), with debates moderated by Franklin Fonyuy. These panelists identified Inadequate funding, Access to Information; Charlatanism; Poor payment of staff, weak Professional associations, etc…as some of several challenges crippling the media landscape in Cameroon.

The media law no.90/052 of December 19, 1990 on Mass Communication in its Section 46(1) states: “A person shall be deemed to be a journalist where, on the basis of his intellectual faculties, his training and talents, he is recognized as being fit to carry out research and process information intended for mass communication.” This Cameroonian definition of a journalist has paved the way for quacks to infest the profession, casting lots of doubts on ‘who is who’ in the profession. Some of them don’t know the ABC of journalism, and often commit all kinds of professional errors. Though the law on Freedom on Mass Communication gives Journalists the right to access information, Cameroon journalists have lots of difficulties to get sensitive information giving room for speculations and falsehood in some reports. The proliferation of Professional Associations further weakens the sector, with the lack of a credible interlocutor for all journalists.

At the end, and as a way forward to overcoming the challenges, participants and panelists recommended the urgent need for a clear entry requirement for all journalists as in other professional bodies; merger of association for journalists, strengthened and oriented towards professional needs, training on new media, media security, thematic reporting; (peace, cultural, documentaries, etc) , as well as taking advantage of electronic information dissemination through blogs, online publication, whatsapp, facebook etc…

Day II: Thursday 04 May 2017

Sensitization workshop for media professionals in Cameroon on the electoral code

In 2018, Cameroon is expected to hold major elections; municipal, parliamentary, senatorial, and presidential, making it an important electoral year in the history of the country. The Elections Management Body; ELECAM has intensified efforts towards raising awareness of Cameroonians on their civic responsibility, particularly the need to enroll in the electoral registers, and also participate actively in the voting process. That notwithstanding, there is need for more targeted measures to ensure that these efforts produce an impact on the ground.

It is against this backdrop that UNIC Yaounde, UNESCO and UN Centre for Human Rights embarked on this sensitization workshop to strengthen the knowledge of media professionals on the electoral code and other texts, policies and regulations governing the electoral process in Cameroon in a bid to enable them play an informed role in educating and sensitizing rights holders on their participation in electoral processes. Participants were introduced to the Cameroon Electoral code mostly an overview of the general provisions and provisions specific to the Elections Management Body. They were divided into commissions to work on specific sub-themes, which ended up with restitution and sharing of facts with others.

These subthemes included;

  1. General provisions related to the Elections Management Body
  2. Provisions relating to the election of President of the Republic and Vacancy
  3. Election of members of Parliament
  4. Election of municipal councilors

At the end of the work in commissions, participants enthusiastically shared /restituted their understanding of some sticky issues related to electoral code, to the happiness of all.

 Lesson:

It is of vital importance for media practitioners to get acquainted with the Cameroon electoral code and other texts, policies and regulations governing the electoral process in preparation to the 2018 upcoming presidential elections in Cameroon. Taking into consideration the fact that the fundamental role of journalists, as one of the key players in the election is to promote transparency, inclusive and peaceful elections, journalists are therefore called to do proper findings of information backed with fact before any publication, be it audiovisual or script writing. In so doing, the media will regain its credibility in the country and will be treated with care and respect.