Over 50 journalists from the Cameroon Community Media Network drawn from the NW, SW and Littoral regions have been drilled on humanitarian crisis/response, conflict sensitive reporting and data journalism. This was during a two days’ workshop organized by the PCC Journalism and Conflict Transformation Project, which took place in Bafoussam from the 19th to the 20th of August 2019.
Aimed at equipping journalists with the skills they need to carry out their role in crisis reporting, the workshop provided participants the opportunity to evaluate the humanitarian response system in Cameroon which comes at the backdrop of the socio-political crisis rocking the two Anglophone regions, terrorist attack in the Far North region and the upheaval in the neighboring Central African Republic.
Facilitated by Omer Songwe, participants worked in groups to understand the principles of humanitarian response; impartiality, neutrality, independence and humanity. Identifying the actors and the challenges they face wasn’t left out as participants for over an hour analyzed conflict affected communities and conflict sensitive journalism. Participants exploited the different crisis (natural and man-made crisis) and how different their humanitarian responses are while drawing inspiration from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in the USA.
Looking at the case of the NW/SW regions, participants agreed that these regions are still to receive aid. This is based on the fact that, affected individuals are still to get enough food, shelter and other materials. The government on its part is making things worst as it has restricted some NGOs from distribution aid to the vulnerable.
According to Omer Songwe, young persons, women and sick persons are more vulnerable during crisis/conflict so those in charge of humanitarian response have to attend to their needs especially those who are expose to Gender Based Violence (GBV). “This is where journalists come in, to report on underreported cases such as human trafficking which is common during conflicts”.
Participants pointed out that limited resources in Cameroon makes cases of human trafficking difficult to investigate.
“I once came across a case in Bamenda where a woman came from Yaounde, searching for domestic servants via announcements over my radio but in a long run, it was discovered that these servants were not used as domestic workers but for something else. When I tried to investigate the situation, I received strange calls asking me to drop the case. Strange enough, those involved when contacted, didn’t want to talk as well, so I had to drop it”. Says Martial Gnoukapasi
Omer Songwe also encouraged participants to look into the lives of IDPs who are now forced to do anything just to survive. This paved the way for participants to state some challenges they are facing on the field.
It is true that it will be difficult for the conflict to be solved without stories being told and by doing that, journalists are tagged at times as being part of the problem, making it difficult for them to work.
According to Sally Mboumien, a communicator, challenges faced by journalists should not stop them from being solution orientated. “Their reports should be impartial, neutral and credible so as to guide the people and help them think critically so that they can make informed decisions. The PCC Journalism and Conflict Transformation Project is very relevant as it has helped journalists realize the powerful role they have to play in conflict resolutions and the power their pens and voices have in their communities”.
To Yannick Fonki, a journalist with HiTV, the network has helped him refined his communication to fit in peace and development. “There is a lot of hate being preached on media platforms but how can we convert all of these into peace and development? So through the network’s seminars and workshops I have attended, I have sharpened my skills towards peace building and it is making great strides”.
Through videos, participants learnt some tips on reporting on conflict from Alex Crawford, a British journalist with Sky News base in South Africa. She advised that participants be aware of propaganda and stay neutral and impartial. “Stay in contact with lawyers and international organizations such as the “Committee to Protect Journalists”.
On Data journalism, participants looked at its concept, potentials, limits and challenges while stating that data can help tell conflict stories through info-graphics.
Talking at the end of the workshop, the National Communication Secretary of the PCC, the Rev Mokoko Mbue Thomas called on participants to watch their words as they reach out to their various communities via media organs or NGOs and help rebuild. “Many IDPs have not been counted and need their stories to be heard and we are their mouth piece so should drum up support for them. Let our hearts be in what we do, so we can use our voices to help better the lives of IDPs in our communities”.
It should be noted that this workshop falls in line with the world humanitarian day celebrated on the19th of August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. In Cameroon, Allegra Del Pilar Baiocchi, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, visited humanitarian operations in affected areas. She emphasized the critical importance of the principles of humanitarian principles.
According to the UN, over 4.3 million people are in need of assistance.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie