PJ Possible In Cameroon Despite Challenges

Peace Journalism (PJ) is gradually getting a foothold in Cameroon and could be very instrumental in finding solutions to Cameroon current socio-political and armed crisis, and could help in pacifying the atmosphere before during and after Cameroon’s upcoming presidential election in October, 2018.

Some 50 journalists from the Northwest and West regions of Cameroon arrived at this conclusion during a three day workshop on “Peace journalism and electoral reporting”  from the 25th to the 27th of July in Bafoussam.

They identified the government, armed separatists, financial and material resources, the editorial policies of media houses, insecurity, the social media, the fear by the public to grant interviews and the influence of family members as the obstacles restraining the practice of PJ in the country.

They tagged the government through its administration, the police and military and the armed groups as a big hindrance to PJ through arrest and kidnapping.

Cross section of Journalists train on PJ in Bafoussam

“You could easily provoke the wrath of some members of the military or the armed separatists who are against peace with PJ report” Ndi Tsmebom Elvis a blogger said

“In-house policies are could be the greatest obstacles to overcome, some media house strive on bad news, and have been using traditional news reporting which could become very difficult to switch to PJ practices”  Forkum Emmanuel Pivaga added.

But at the same time the participants identified solutions to the obstacles raised. They all accepted that good journalistic practices and PJ reports, use of credible sources of information, avoid propaganda, proactive reporting, sharing of resources amongst media houses, the use of the very social media to counter fake news amongst others are ways they can implore to override this obstacles.

Prof. Steven Youngblood of the Centre for Global Peace Journalism and facilitator at the workshop acknowledged that “ journalists (at the workshop) seems to believe that although there are obstacles,  some of the principles of PJ can be implemented right away in Cameroon

Participants brainstorming at Bafoussam workshop

Peace journalism basically entails  “editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict”

As opposed to traditional journalism which focus on conflict arena, the main protagonist, disseminate propaganda, focus on individuals, dehumanizes one side at the detriment of the other, reactive that is hoping and waiting for violence and other ills to happen before it reports, PJ on the other hand explore conflict formation, give voice to all parties involve and especially the victims of the conflict, expose untruths and cover ups, is proactive, tying to prevent violence before it occurs and building bridges between the opposing sides.

PJ approach to reporting has already established its root in the Southwest and Northwest regions and is slowly encroaching into the West and Littoral regions.

According to Alexander Vojvoda, of the Civil peace Service Cameroon, PJ has gained ground in Cameroon in a very short time.  “I think we started in 2015 with a group of 8 people in Buea and we are standing now at three regions with over 70 members. So I think definitely that the fruits are there in the sense that there is an interest”.

Alexander goes further to add that it wasn’t easy planting the seeds “When I started to discuss about peaceful journalism, about conflict sensitive journalism about non-violence in journalism, people were laughing at me. They say we don’t need this in Cameroon, we have our way we are doing journalism. But as things developed people say that PJ can bring professionalism into their work..”

More workshops grouping journalist from Cameroons other regions has been programmed for Yaoundé this week.

Sponsored by Bread For The World-Germany, and the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, the concept is being implemented by the Cameroon Community Media Network (CCMN) and the Christian Broadcasting Service – CBS.

By Abongwa Fozo

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