Combating hate speech in Cameroon:Social media should be used to preach positivity-Bar. Nkongho Felix

By Boris Esono in Buea

Founder, President of CHRDA, Bar. Agbor Balla
Founder, President of CHRDA, Bar. Agbor Balla

The population of Cameroon of Cameroon has been urged to use social media to preach love, positive messages, expose the problems we face and the issues government has to address. The statement was made by Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla during the joint symposium and workshop by CHRDA (Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa) and CIVICUS (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) on combating hate speech in Cameroon which took place from November 16th to 17th 2018.

To him “It is incumbent on everyone to try and use the social media to fight against hate. It is causing division in our society. It is bringing a lot of hatred and we owe it a duty to try and fight it. We should not only wait for there to be hate speech for us to counter”.

He added that: the objective of the workshop was to train young people on hate speech, what is the notion of it, how they can combat it and for them to understand that there is a thin line between hate speech and freedom of the expression. “We are going through a very difficult phase in this country wherein hate speech is the other of the day. We have communities that have lived together but because of hate speech and excitement of violence against each other, people have started looking others for the different perspective. Xenophobia is running riot in the country”.

In his presentation prof. Enow Tanjong, one time Head of Department for Journalism and Mass Communication, UB said human virtues and vices are randomly distributed across population and sub population. There is no scientific evidence to apportion human virtues or vices to a particular nation, region, ethnic group, tribe or village.

Some of the sources of hate speech made known during the workshop include: the rise of ethnicism, the rise of extremism, fear of political and social change, stereotypes and lack of psychological attention.

He added that: “you have to be careful with those aligned to extremism. They are very much present in Cameroon. They are the cause of hate speech and they have no convergence because they have no meeting point”.

“Participants should put brakes on hate speech. This involves creating facts checking organizations to look at issues which are either correct or incorrect, putting in place peace journalism which involves building trust and bridges (do not report a speech by government officials which involves hate to others) and build up trust”.

The Director of the Pan African Institute of West Africa, PAID-WA on his part said there is no country that does not have differences. “Even in the USA, there are differences like the white supremacist who want to be at the forefront. Even in Britain, there are differences. Many people now want “Brexin” and not “Brexit”. “We are stronger in diversity as people coming together. Our language should be taken as strength as Cameroonians are excelling everywhere” he added.

 Facilitators and trainers pose for a picture during the workshop on combating hate speech in Cameroon

Facilitators and trainers pose for a picture during the workshop on combating hate speech in Cameroon

At the end of the event, recommendations were put forward which is intended to intimate the stakeholders and indulge then in the process of preserving civic space and combating hate and hate speech in Cameroon. The youths were also called upon to share what they have learnt to their communities, schools, neighborhoods and other areas.

The project was designed to absorb the youth population in Cameroon from different areas and religious background on preventing the use of hate speech. This is in tandem with the famous UN resolution 2250, which places emphasis on the role of the youths in the maintenance and or promotion of peace and security.

The center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) was founded in 2005 having headquarters in Buea, USA, Nairobi with the aim for the protection and promotion of democracy in all its facets. They have thematic arrears like gender unit, human rights defenders, digital rights, protection of prisoners amongst others.

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