Peter Essoka, President of the National Communication Council.
Festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the African Communication Regulation Network (ACRAN) take place in Yaounde. What are the achievements so far and the stakes at hand?
ACRAN is a network of communication regulators which started 20 years-ago in Libreville, Gabon. Cameroon was a founding member of the network and it has taken the country 20 years to host the conference. With the new technology in communication, we need to be conversant with the digital era and follow the wind, as it moves away from the analogy to the digital. During the conference, focus will be on the digital implications in communication. The conference will also look at the social media and the kind of information it is disseminating. Although the social media is good in away, it becomes a problem when it spreads hate language, promote immorality and rumours. There is also the possibility that the network will apply for an observant position with the African Union. As such, they will play the role of advisers to Heads of State, when they meet during their annual conference.
The Cameroonian press is known for its audacity; a character that is often accompanied by excesses including the spread of fake news and defamation. What do you make of this growing phenomenon?
This has caused us a lot of trouble in the Council. We have tried as much as possible to restrict in this area. However, it is a phenomenon that is wide spread. When we even reprimand people, there are some recalcitrant ones who will never listen. We appeal to good sense and responsibility to all media men and women with a certain level. We should not be dragged to the mud by what we read from social media and apply to the conventional or classical media. We will continue to hammer to the entire associates in the network to understand that it is okay to read social media, but have the responsibility and choice of making yourself conversant with what is good news and not what is fake, immoral or rumour.
It has been established that lack of training, poverty and the difficult economic environment have led to the development of an easy-to-use press. What do you intend to do in order to bring about the emergence of a credible press not only in Cameroon, but Africa in general?
One thing Communication Councils need to do is to solicit enough support from their governments to carry out seminars for training, missions to different media grouping in a bid to communicate and advice them on how to train their staff. The Council is not a training ground but can help facilitate training for media persons. There is the issue of granting of Press Card. To whom do we grant Press Cards? We are glad we have a commission in charge of press card. But unfortunately, no member of the Communication Council is invited to be part of the press card commission. And yet the Council is supposed to follow up on the journalists and good practice. Such a responsibility should be given to the council. We also need to review the issue of issuing licences to media organs. But this is a typical problem to Cameroon, because unlike in other countries, it is the Council that has the responsibility to issue licences to media organs as well as Press Card. We still need such changes in Cameroon.
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