The role of the journalist in the promotion of peace remains a difficult reality to assess, and some have tragically paid the prize. This marginal approach that contrasts with the nature of searching for scoops is the project of Pr. Steven Youngblood who interacted with Cameroon media professionals at the headquarters of Fdriedrich Ebert Stiftung in Yaounde.
Making journalism an instrument of peace is not always easy in the face of the political arsenal and the machinery of government. Several reporters are often the target of criticism for their impartial work. Neutrality is not always unanimous in this profession which is now among the most dangerous in the world with 74 journalists killed in 2016 against 114 in 2012 according to Reporters Without Borders (RWB). A decline that hides the bad “World Press Freedom Rankings 2016” described by RWB as a “deep and worrying” degradation.
For a peace journalist, the question of what should be published or not in the coverage of an event or conflict remains fundamental. A concern whose answer sometime depends on the side in which the reporter is located. The context of the African countries does not facilitate the neutrality of this journalistic approach.
The Peace Journalism and Election Report held from 17 to 19 July at theFriedich Ebert Foundation’s headquarters assessed the work of journalists and their contribution to peacebuilding. One of the aims is to improve productive capacity and productivity for peace. Director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism, Pr. Steven Youngblood has educated media men present on the need to work for responsible journalism.
Actors on the field, Cameroonian journalists, in particular those covering the news in the northern part, shared their experience of facts and reality in the coverage of conflicts in Cameroon. The case of the war against Boko haram in the Far North, the Anglophone crisis, the Catholic bishop of Bafia death and so on are some topics that fuels the debate in the press and nurture the frustrations of journalists. Between the analysis of the reports and the practical case, it was question of self appropriation of the principle of “pen of peace”.
Between the reality on the ground and government communication, public opinion does not always knows who is telling the truth and militates for peace. Cases of journalists accused and sentenced for terrorism in the performance of their duties are reported, an argument that could justify the thesis of a muzzled press in its approach to peace. Everyone could have something to say on this subject but how to decide is the reason for the workshop animated by Pr. Steven Youngblood. The journalists took the opportunity to express their concerns and exchange on the issues that hinder the development of “Peace journalism” in our countries.
This type of initiative is part of the strategy of the Fdriedrich Ebert Foundation, which actively participates in building the capacity of journalists from different sectors (public, private and community media) on key development issues. Since the role of the media in the reconciliation of belligerents is no longer to be demonstrated, the work of peace journalism must be conciliatory.
In his exchange Pr. Steven Youngblood told reporters that “Journalism for Peace exposes the causes of conflict and aims to encourage dialogue before violence and explore solutions. Peace journalists reject official political propaganda and search for facts from all sources … “among other fundamental characteristics.
Steven Youngblood is an author of “Peace Journalism Principles and Practice, Responsibly Reporting Conflict, Reconciliation, and Solutions”, published in 2017 by Steve Youngblood, an active contributor to the seed of peace in journalism across the world.
The Workshop on “Journalism of Peace”, organized by Fdriedrich Ebert Stiftung, is in the perspective of responsible journalism for the 2018 elections in Cameroon. The foundation works in social democracy, political education. Its activities cover the policy area, social and media development in general. In its work in the press sector, we noted the publication of the “Media Barometer” designed to assess the media environment in Cameroon. Three editions of this study have already been published in Cameroon. Also an edition of this barometer has been published in Gabon and the other in the DRC. The periodicity is 3 years in order to carry out advocacy for reforms in the field of communication.