Anglophone crisis: CAMASEJ bolsters journalists’ ability to report from gender, human rights angles



Workshop participants pose with South Regional Delegate of Communication, some CAMASEJ National Exco members and facilitators after opening ceremony 
 
Some English-speaking journalists, drawn from print and online media houses, have been equipped with new skills on how to factor gender and human rights in reporting the drawn-out conflict in the North West and South West regions.

The over 30 media men and women from the six chapters of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) honed their skills during a three-day workshop. The training took place in Kribi, Ocean division of the South region, November 11-13, 2021.

Organized by CAMASEJ in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission in Cameroon, the training also saw the participation of members from sister groups like the Cameroon Association of Women in Media (AFMECAM), the Cameroon branch of the International Francophone Press Union (UPF) and SisterSpeak237. It was supported and funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI). 

Why gender and human rights?

Welcoming participants, the National President of CAMASEJ, Jude Viban regretted the humanitarian crisis brought about by the armed conflict. However, he noted that though the print and online media have played a vital role, the gender and human rights aspects of the crisis remain underreported, especially in the local media.

“The stories are many within the context of the crisis in the North West and South West regions,” Viban said. He added that though the crisis is an unfortunate situation, “it is also an opportunity for journalists to showcase their capabilities and we thought such a workshop will help raise the standards of journalism in that part of the country.”

Jude Viban, National President of CAMASEJ 

Like all other conflicts where belligerent parties try to dominate each other, Viban said human rights violations are at the centre of the crisis in the North West and South West regions. In most of the violations, he said women and children are most vulnerable, “that is why we brought in gender and human rights experts” to speak at the training.

Conflict zone not hindrance to objectivity 

Speaking as she chaired the opening ceremony of the workshop, the Regional Delegate of Communication for the South, Marguerite Solange Beko'o B'Evina called on the participants to be focused and take the training seriously for “once you stop learning you stop living.”
She said though trained, trends are changing and journalists have to move with the changing times reason why such training opportunities need to be taken seriously.

“It has just been a few years that we started witnessing crisis in the country and we don’t have any expertise on how to report in conflict zones, how to behave as journalists and how to bring out the human rights aspects and make the balance between different genders,” Beko'o B'Evina explained, emphasizing the importance of the workshop.

Cross section of participants 

Though noting that it is very challenging covering conflicts especially for women, she enjoined the workshop participants to make good use of the knowledge gained when they return to their various newsrooms.

“Being in a conflict zone should not prevent you from reporting objective and verified information…give the right information without fear. Use this workshop to revive the skills you learned in school and your various newsrooms…Learn not to be biased in your reporting, keep stories human but do not put in human feelings to give a different meaning,  and do not colour stories to favour one or the other side of the parties in the conflict,” the South Regional Delegate of Communication advised.


Gender, human rights concept 

Many have been arrested and detained within the context of the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West regions and tens of thousands of human rights violation cases have been reported by mainly humanitarian groups on the ground.

According to Barrister Legenju Vitalise, a Member of the Cameroon Bar Association and human rights expert, the media has a major role to play in reinforcing human rights in the restive regions of the country.

“Journalists have the power to act as watchdogs of the society to report events as they are,” he said, noting however that some laws in the country stifle this freedom.
“The government has the right to summon and take statements from anyone whose testimony can lead the investigator to finding ingredients amounting to the commission of an offence. 

However, such rights should not amount to intimidating the witness,” the lawyer said.
For journalists to do their work much easier in a country with an autocratic government like Cameroon, the human rights advocate said, “they have to regulate themselves by empowering their associations to take over powers to regulate their affairs and conducts because once there is a vacuum, government steps in.”

Dr Violet Fokum, gender expert and Executive Director of the Buea-based Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) drilled participants on gender sensitive reporting and communication in a crisis like that ongoing in the North West and South West regions.

How to pitch the stories

After learning mainly concepts about human rights and gender, the participants were later drilled on how to use the knowledge to write seductive pitches and stories about, but not limited to, gender and human rights aspects of the crisis.

Widely published award-winning journalist and scholar, Amindeh Blaise Atabong, who drilled the workshop participants on this module, also conducted a practical session with them on finding better gender and human rights related pitches in the crisis-plagued regions.

The 2019 winner of the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism and certified hostile environment reporter also shared some of his pitches and works with the participants.

Participants laud initiative 

As they returned to their newsrooms after the training, participants were all praises to the Viban-led executive of CAMASEJ for the opportunity given them to learn new skills.

“The workshop has indeed been very empowering,” said Emmanuel Tamanje, blogger from Bamenda. While praising the organization, he said he is now fully aware of some words to avoid especially reporting stories linked to gender.

“With the training, I have now realised how gender-blind I was in my reports and this is not going to be the case again,” Tamanje promised.

“Equally, the session on how to pitch stories that can win over editors of mega news organs was very enriching. It will greatly shape the nature of my reports now than before. The knowledge gained on how to pitch a story will enable me pitch stories for sponsorship with the obvious end result being financial breakthrough,” the Bamenda-based blogger said.

To Andrew Nsoseka, Desk Editor at The Post newspaper in Buea, who bagged a Master’s Degree in Political Economy prior to coming to Kribi for the workshop, the training shaped his knowledge on how to pay “attention to human rights violations from the belligerents in the conflict,” ongoing in the North West and South West as well the importance of keeping a keen eye on gender issues. 

“This will help me better report the crisis in an impactful way, because instead of reporting from the surface, I will be able to look deeper into issues of rights violations and gender biases. This will help improve my journalism,” he said.

While also praising the Nationa Bureau of CAMASEJ for the initiative, Kumba-based reporter for The Guardian Post, Neba Daniella, on her part described the training as an enriching experience. 

“Being a female journalist working in one of the towns of the restive regions of the country, I am usually faced with the challenge reporting gender and human rights stories but thanks to this training workshop, I have been equiped with the necessary skills to report such stories,” she said.

According to Neba, she has always loved to get into freelancing though she had no idea on how to go about it. The workshop was just the answer as it gave her insights on “how to begin my career as a freelancer.”

By

Ndi Eugene Ndi
First published in Newswatch Newspaper 

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