Peter Essoka, President of the National Communication Council.
Why a seminar on “hate speech in the media in Cameroon”?
Is this really a problem in the society now? The idea for such a seminar did not just start today. It is not only an idea of the National Communication Council of Cameroon but also that of the African Network of Regulators. It is a subject matter that is being examined throughout Africa. With the approach of the presidential election, such language has become more and more rampant amongst political rivals and media persons who have failed to respect the ethics of the profession. We think, this is the best moment to once again remind media professionals of their role in educating the population rather than promoting hate amongst citizens. We are not giving anybody instructions. We have gathered media practitioners so that we all can discuss and find out what we are doing wrong and how we can make it better. This is all about the dignity of the media profession. If the profession is looked upon as lose, no journalist will be considered in the society. We are supposed to be watchdogs of a society. A watchdog at a gate is supposed to give an alarm of what is coming on. But if the watchdog becomes that one who gets into the house and dramatises all that is happening in the house, then, they are not worth being called watchdogs.
How is hate speech manifested in the media?
Basically, hate speech is when people have gone out of themselves to say things they are not supposed to say by denigrating the personality of some people in the society thereby bringing about division and rebellion. When someone comes on air and say, the people of Foumban do not like other people or people of Mbouda are eating human flesh or worst still the Anglophones are rats. Such language causes division as they break into the dignity of people. Some of the crises in this country are caused by what people say over the media. Moderators of any media programmes must have a way of stopping any person promoting hate speeches over the media. Authorities need to be careful about what they say on the air because they have an impact on the people. If authorities have to promote hate speeches with the complicity of media practitioners, we are in for more trouble.
How will you want journalists to address hate languages on the media?
I am not telling journalists anything. We have met to look at a problem affecting our profession. It is necessary for us journalists to sit and discuss where we are going as far as the journalism profession is concerned. Our profession does not have any guidelines. Even the codes of the profession are not respected by many of us. Our journalism unions are not operatives. But I believe gathering journalists to talk about a problem affecting the corps is like a trumpet sounding and the question: what do we do? Should we continue in the same light or can we change the face of our profession, so that it is respected. We need to have a positive impact in the society, instead of promoting hate languages.
What are your major expectations after the seminar?
We are going to come up with recommendations which the National Communication Council is going to use in sensitising and encouraging media professionals to do their work properly. Media houses need to sit and examine who they recruit. This will be plausible for the profession. If not we will continue to go down the drain and we will continue to be considered as liars or drunken.