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Combating disinformation while protecting legitimate journalism - The AFF Conference 2024 | Shansel Mbaku & Atagio Bruel

The AFF Cameroon conference was held on the 27th and 28th the March 2024 at Djeuga Palace Hotel, Yaounde. This conference was organized by Defyhatenow through the initiative Africa Fact-checking Fellowship Cameroon (AFF Cameroon), a civil society organization working in the digital space (its impacts on elections in Africa and Cameroon), in collaboration with other organizations like the Association Civic Watch, 237Check and others. This conference was on the theme, "Combating Digital Threats to Elections in Cameroon: Strategies of combating disinformation during the electoral period".

The conference brought together over 200 participants. Among the attendees were representatives from key public institutions such as the Ministry of Communication (MINCOM), the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL), the National Communication Council (NCC), Election Cameroon (ELECAM) and the Cameroon National Youth Council (CNYC).

The primary focus of the conference was to address digital threats to elections in Cameroon, specifically targeting strategies to combat disinformation during electoral periods.

Drawing on past experiences and lessons learned, the event aimed to develop evidence-based strategic guidance for more effective responses to mis/disinformation, fake news, and hate speech during election campaigns. The goal was to promote socio-political stability, good governance, democracy, and peace in Cameroon leading up to the 2025 elections.

One of the most insightful sessions was the round-table conversation on Media Disinformation and Democracy in Cameroon. The panelists tackled the crucial issue of how to facilitate and protect journalism in Cameroon in order to uphold democratic principles. The esteemed speakers included Nsah Terrence and Xavier Meseh, who drove home the point that a free press and democracy are inextricably linked.

As Mr. Nsah eloquently stated that, "There is no democracy without free press, and vice versa." A truly independent media cannot exist without journalists being well-trained, having safeguards, and being able to operate free of undue interference. Journalists must have the liberty to access public spaces, gather information, and publish that information without fear of reprisal.

However, the reality in Cameroon is that journalists currently face significant hurdles. There is no Freedom of Information Act, which makes it extremely difficult for reporters to legally access public records and data. Journalists who refuse to reveal their sources can face legal consequences. And sources are understandably skeptical about coming forward with information when whistleblower protections are lacking.

Combating disinformation while protecting legitimate journalism must be a priority for the government and civil society. Otherwise, Cameroon's democratic institutions and citizen's right to access accurate information remains under threat. The AFF Conference provided a vital platform for these critical conversations.

The ALL AFF Cameroon Conference 2024 served as a platform for diverse stakeholders to collaborate on combating digital threats posed by mis/disinformation during electoral periods. By bringing together experts, government representatives, civil society organizations, media professionals, and fact-checkers, the conference contributed to laying the groundwork for more effective preventive and reactive responses to safeguard electoral integrity and promote peace in Cameroon.

  • Mbaku Shansel’22 & Atagio Ngongueu Bruel'23 | Open Dreams

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