Category Archives: World Press Freedom Day

Colloquium on the 2018 World Press Freedom Day in Cameroon

“..the emergence of online media is advantageous but constitutes a danger when ethical norms are neglected…with the internet, anyone can become a journalist because it is open to all, with little or no control” was echoed by Mr. Ngankak Kizito, Director of Private Media Development at the Ministry of Communication (MINCOM), representing his Minister at the 2018 World Press Freedom Day commemorated in Cameroon through a colloquium organized by UNESCO, UNIC Yaounde and the Advanced school of Mass Communication (ASMAC) Yaounde. Event which held on “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice And The Rule Law” took place at ASMAC on 3 May 2018.

During the opening ceremony, Mr. Mputu Hilaire read the message of the Director General of UNESCO, followed by a video projection of the UNSG’s message by UNIC. In the message, Mr. Guterres called on “…governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalist”.

 

The crux of the observance was the panel talk with the over 200 Journalism students and media professionals on the following sub-themes:

  • ·Press freedom, access to information and elections·
  • A judicial system in favor of free and assured journalism;·
  • Freedom of expression online: improve self-regulation.

UNIC’s NIO Jean Njita emphasized that the commemoration fell within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mostly Goal 16:  whereby “people everywhere need to be free of fear from all forms of violence and feel safe as they go about their lives whatever their ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation”. Mr Njita further stated that the 2018 WPFD will offer a renewed opportunity to address critical issues affecting online press freedom and further promote SDG16 (target16.10) on public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.

The Director of the Advanced School of Mass Communication (ASMAC) Yaounde; Professor Laurent-Charles Boyomo Assala harped that journalist are first to understand and follow the ethical deontology of the profession and that for press freedom to be effective, a clear sociological distinction must be made between a person of the press (professional) and the individual. To him, press freedom applies only to those with a professional qualification as journalist and not the individual. Professor Boyomo thus called on journalists to be conscious of their ethical limits, as defined by the law, when reporting, for information must be treated within the social norms of the profession without distorting facts.

Professor Claude-Bernard Assira, Senior Lecturer at the Catholic University of Central Africa disclosed that; a journalist is anyone who, based on his intellectual abilities, trained or untrained can collect and treat information destined for social communication, according to article 46 of the 1990 freedom law in Cameroon. To him, this law gives room for just anyone to get into the profession, as he further state that there is no press freedom in Cameroon, pointing out some cases of journalist who were wrongly prosecuted. He alarmed at the fact that “the judiciary system in Cameroon has been politicized, government authorities who in most cases are the complainant, use their positions in power to influence judges to pass judgment in their favor”. He thus called for an amendment of the laws, with new code of ethics elaborated and adopted for the journalism profession, as he once more reiterated the need for genuine freedom and security of journalist, as well as calling for a responsible journalism to avoid judicial issues.

Dr Baba Wame; a Cyber Journalist and lecturer in ASMAC reiterated that the internet has little or no control over contents published by individuals. He added that online information is mostly produced by the authors themselves which may not necessarily be credible. Dr Baba Wame said the unreliable and unsecured publication of social media content led to 3 historical events in the month of April 2018 amongst which was the summon of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg by the American Senate for his failure to protect users’ data. He thus added that only a proper application of internet self-regulatory measures can give credibility and security to social media content and users, this by setting up of online ethical codes by social media communities.

During the question and answer session, questions asked with satisfactory answers from panelists included:

  •  It is possible for a journalist to faithfully carry out his professional duties given our political and economic context?
  •  Can we talk of press freedom in a profession where anyone can get into without training?
  •  Will the issue of auto regulation not hinder press freedom online?

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.

Le Message du Secrétaire Général publié à l’occasion de la Journée Mondiale de la Liberté de la Presse – 3 Mai 2016

[Scroll down for the English Version]
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Les droits de l’homme, les sociétés démocratiques et le développement durable sont tributaires de la libre circulation des informations et le droit à l’information est fonction de la liberté de la presse. Nous célébrons chaque année la Journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse afin de mettre en lumière ces principes fondamentaux, de protéger l’indépendance des médias et de rendre hommage aux professionnels des médias qui risquent ou qui ont perdu leur vie dans l’exercice de leur profession.
Cette année, la Journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse coïncide avec trois grands événements : le 250e anniversaire de la première loi relative à la liberté d’information au monde, dont le champ d’application englobait la Suède et la Finlande actuelles; le 25e anniversaire de l’adoption de la Déclaration de Windhoek sur les principes de la liberté de la presse; et la mise en application des objectifs de développement durable.
La liberté de la presse et la libre circulation des informations sont essentielles non seulement pour informer les citoyens sur les objectifs de développement durable, mais aussi pour leur permettre de faire tenir leurs promesses à leurs dirigeants. Les médias, y compris les nouveaux médias en ligne, qui occupent une place de plus en plus importante, sont les yeux et les oreilles du monde entier : nous bénéficions tous des informations qu’ils diffusent.
Il importe que les médias soient libres, indépendants et puissent exercer en toute sécurité. Or, bien trop souvent, des journalistes sont menacés, harcelés, se heurtent à des obstacles ou sont même tués dans leur quête d’informations. De nombreux autres croupissent en détention, certains dans des conditions déplorables, pour avoir fait la lumière sur des failles de gouvernements, des malversations d’entreprises ou des problèmes de société.
Je suis très préoccupé par les restrictions de plus en plus grandes auxquelles font face les professionnels de médias dans de nombreux pays, les restrictions à la liberté d’expression empêchant le progrès. En cette Journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse, j’exhorte tous les gouvernements, politiciens, entreprises et citoyens à promouvoir et à protéger l’indépendance et la liberté des médias. Sans ce droit fondamental, la population est moins libre et moins autonome, mais avec, nous pourrons construire ensemble un monde digne et offrant des possibilités à tous.
Message of UN Secretary General on World Press Freedom Day – 3 May 2016
Human rights, democratic societies and sustainable development depend on the free flow of information. And the right to information depends on press freedom. Each year, we observe World Press Freedom Day to emphasize these fundamental principles, to protect the independence of the media and to honour media workers who risk and have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
This year, World Press Freedom Day coincides with three important milestones. It is the 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law, covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland, and it is the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration of press freedom principles. Finally, 2016 is also the first year of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Press freedom and the free flow of information are necessary not only to inform citizens about the Goals, but to enable them to hold their leaders accountable for fulfilling the pledges they have made. The media – including, and increasingly, new online media — serve as our eyes and ears. We all benefit from the information they provide.
A free, independent and safe media environment is essential. Yet, all too often, journalists are threatened, harassed, obstructed or even killed in the pursuit of information. Many languish in detention, some in appalling conditions, for shedding light on governance failures, corporate malfeasance or societal problems.
I am very concerned about the increasingly restrictive environment for media workers in many countries. Constraints on freedom of expression place shackles on progress itself. On this World Press Freedom Day, I urge all Governments, politicians, businesses and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media. Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered. With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all.