#defyhatenow Media Mentions

Mbengwi online: At Maiden #AFFCameroon Conference, Fact Checkers Take Stock of Distance

Link to article

“Towards a synergy of actions against mis/disinformation and the spread of hate speech for peace and sustainable development in Cameroon” is the theme under which the maiden national conference of the Africa Fact Checking Fellowship Cameroon was held. For two days, November 18 to 19 2022, about 200 key actors converged in Yaounde with the goal of Challenging Mis/Dis/Malinformation and Hate Speech in Cameroon. The two-day conference was held under the distinguished patronage of the Ministry of Communication, supported by UNESCO and Meta. 

According to studies, the democratisation of the use of I.C.Ts in Cameroon has greatly facilitated access to information and it’s corollary, freedom of expression. However, in the absence of a standardized restrictive, regulatory and legal framework, the ability of an internet user to influence information, sociopolitical and security agenda of a community or state is enhanced through the proliferation of misleading speech, fabrication of information, photos, videos, deep fakes, troll sharing, creation of fake accounts, online scams, slanderous, hateful and dangerous speech on social media aimed at individuals and or inter ethnic communities. 

As such, given the situation in Cameroon, since 2019 till date, #defyhatenow initiated the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship – #AFFCameroon quarterly program which has been providing technical, pedagogical and functional support to over 100 journalists, bloggers and content creators drawn from eight out of the ten regions of Cameroon in online fact-checking and hate speech detection, data journalism and digital rights. 

H.E Philippe Van Damme is the European Union’s ambassador to Cameroon. Addressing participants at the workshop, he called for intensification of the fight against fake news and hate speech, a call that was corroborated by Stephen Kovats, cofounder of r0g_agency who added that “We have a situation where people out there know that the majority of the population is not so much worried about how social media or news affects us. So they take advantage of those vacuums.”

The two day conference was marked by plenary, workshop and master class sessions on multiple relevant topics facilitated by experts from various domains like cyber security, civil society, democracy, peace amongst others. While facilitating on Reshaping the Practice of Journalism for the Promotion of Democracy and Peace, Investigative Journalism and the Media’s Contribution to Conflict Mitigation, Viban Jude, National President of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) encouraged all to just simply practice good journalism. As to what the association he heads has been doing to ensure this, he said “One of the major resolutions to be arrived at during our forthcoming general assembly meeting built for Yaounde this month end will be how to make entry into CAMESEJ difficult and exit easy.”

To Ndi Tsembom Elvis, North West Chapter President of CAMASEJ, the proliferation of journalism groupings often stemming from almost each of the various training workshops by organisations and institutions or ministries  poses a great challenge to the solidification of the practice in Cameroon. However, to Viban, the main problem is not really the many disjointed groupings but the absence of an umbrella body like the Cameroon Union of Journalists to cover the rest, a vacuum that is to the advantage of the state. 

Speaking at the close of the ceremony, Ngala Desmond, Executive Director of Civic Watch, a community based organisation empowering communities to counter hateful rhetorics both online and offline and Country Manager of #DefyHateNow for West and Central Africa said “We have taken cognizant of the fact that social media is playing a great role in shaping perceptions and even public discourse locally. That’s why our mandate is not only limited to trained journalists but also the untrained that are now champions of citizen journalism as they publish information without any kind of mudguards.”

Before closing the conference, some carefully selected fellows were awarded certificates of excellence for outstanding achievement in meeting up to the expectations of #DefyHateNow/Civic Watch. Hemes Ngwa, Mbuh Stella and Maikem Emmanuella  were recognised as Independent Specialised Fact Checkers in Health, Society, Conflict and Violence respectively while Doh Bertrand of the Guardian Post newspaper and Marthe Ndiang of Data Cameroon were recognised as Best Media Fact Checkers. Frank William Batchou emerged as winner of Most Impactful Report following a publication he did in March 2020 titled “No, the U.S Senate has not taken any action against Cameroon.” Lastly, a Special Prize for the Youngest and Most Engaged Fellow was given to Arthur César Njitchou Nkwa.

               Appreciated for Job Well Done

The pioneer #AFFCameroon national conference ended with the formation of an alumni whose executive bureau shall be made of fellows from the various cohorts and its task shall be to coordinate all past trainees to continue with the hate speech and fake news fight, this time around with little influence from #DefyHateNow/Civic Watch.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *