The CCMN – Cameroon Community Media Network hosted a 4-day practitioner workshop on “Community-based and Conflict-Sensitive Media Production” with participants from Cameroon, D.R. Congo and Sierra Leone. The meeting took place from 27-30 November 2017 in Douala and was officiated by Rev Mokoko Mbue Thomas (PCC National Communication Secretary) and Prof Vinod Pavarala (UNESCO Chair on Community Media/University Hyderabat in India)

Background

The dominant public sphere constituted by the government, a national market, and the mainstream mass media is extraordinary in nature and privileges the elites. The poor and the marginalized find themselves without a voice in that monolithic public sphere and lacking access to it. It is here that community media such as community radios have the potential to forge ‘subaltern counter public sphere’ where subordinate classes could circulate alternative discourses and articulate their own interests and identities, Such alternative spheres by shifting control over media technologies to the marginalized, facilitate collaborative action and offer a realistic potential for emancipation.

In Cameroon, D.R. Congo and Sierra Leone community media work in a difficult environment characterized by economic constraints for media houses, poverty and in some cases violent conflicts. Especially in conflict situations the true nature of the country’s state of governance is revealed and the attitude and preconditions under which media are able to work. Me

dia are faced with (self) censorship, interference of state, political or economic elites or in extreme cases faces also violence. This practice restricts the freedom of expression and efficiencies of media, especially community media as they are located on the grass-roots of media production. In effect this can also mean direct violation of freedom of expression and human rights.

The restriction of community discourse about the things that touch specifically on their daily lives such as the crisis in Cameroon, land grabbing in Sierra Leone or the open conflicts in D.R. Congo has now been told through the social media with challenges of irregularities, omissions of truth and manipulation of information. There is massive distrust of the state media and other private media with apparent affiliation with the state, which puts community media in a potential role as dialogue platform and respected and trusted source of information.

At this juncture, there is need for increased advocacy in favour of community media in terms of their role to operate in order to address the pending communication needs of the communities they are meant to serve based on the fact that community media is 99% community and 1% media. The role of local and international networks in advocating for the free operations of community media highlights the value of sharing experiences, content and fostering a loud voice on behalf of the voiceless cannot be over emphasized.

Expectations and Objectives

Community media operation is very different from one community to another and from one country to the other. The overall goal of the workshop is to strengthen partnerships for a peaceful and just world by underscoring the roles of community media in conflict situations and their potentials as dialogue platforms.However, sharing success stories from different contexts may provide the grounds for rethinking.

Recommendations

The following recommendations were arrived at during the practitioner workshop

  • Journalists require security and protection to cover conflict-sensitive issues consequently CM and networks need to get training manuals for conflict sensitive coverage online for further in house training or organize training with a physical training expert.
  • Journalists require special skills and competences on journalist protection during conflict coverage and need to in the shortest time find a way to get this knowledge for improved efficiency and security.
  • There is need for an interactive training of conflict-sensitive journalism including but not limited to putting emphasis on the difference between activist and journalist as well as the ethical aspects of CM/Journalism practices
  • Continuous sharing of resources on CSJ, CM research, and other heated content o Apply PJ as a cross-cutting tool
  • Brainstorm on ways to involve journalism school in CM/PJ
  • Develop curriculum on CM and PJ for secondary schools and universities
  • Periodically conduct on the job training
  • Community development on reconciliation with local stakeholders with the aim to create common ownership for CM
  • Share experiences through CM
  • The Douala Declaration should be given consideration in the shortest time possible so as to trigger concerted efforts on the common grounds.
  • Further networking in the region via regular online & on-site exchanges to discuss further implementation of the Douala Declaration
  • Further development of online exchange, documentation, archiving and networking tools like the CMA – Community Media Archive in West and Central Africa to increase visibility of community media and foster exchange

The Douala Declaration

The participants signed an agreement – the “Douala Declaration” – in order to facilitate further work and collaboration and set out common way for a regional community media network in West and Central Africa.


We the participants representing community media networks from Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,

after four days of intensive discussions on the core principles of community media and,

after reviewing their role in promoting, among other things, conflict-sensitive and peace journalism, greater democratization of the region and of our respective nations, and enhance good governance and accountability, have resolved as follows:

— that we will deepen the relationship between various national networks of community media in the region;

— that we shall strive to balance the challenges of providing independent and professional journalism with the primary advocacy role of community media in the cause of deprived and marginalized communities;

— that we will continuously build ties and find solidarity with civil society and community-based organisations that are working on critical issues concerning the lives, livelihoods, and physical/social environments of communities;

— that we will work together on advocating for a more favourable and enabling policy and legal framework for community media in the delivery of an important public service;

— that we shall jointly resist all forms of repression and inducements directed against practitioners of community media and call upon authorities to assure the safety and protection of community media personnel in the performance of their duties;

— that while upholding the centrality of the welfare of the communities in our community media, we will ensure that we adhere to codes of practice enunciated by international agencies such as UNESCO and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC);

— that we will promote peer learning among community media entities through regular meetings, sharing of content and best practices, and exchange visits and internships;

— that, where possible, in order to enhance the effectiveness of knowledge- and content-sharing activities among community media, we shall work to create and adopt online tools and archives;

— that we will work closely with academic institutions and independent researchers in the region to foster a proper understanding of community media in both teaching and research activities;

— that while recognising the importance of forging an ecology for appropriate teaching and research on community media, we will encourage community media entities to undertake systematic and periodic reflection on their own practices through self-assessment and peer review methodologies.

In order to achieve the above objectives, we the representatives of various community media from Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo resolve to:

Form a Western and Central African Community Media Network

Douala, Cameroon

November 30, 2017


The practitioner workshop was organised by

In co-operation with

Financed by

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