Journalists in Central and West Africa call on media to address hate speech and reaffirm ethical standards
Abuja, Nigeria & Doula, Cameroon
5 March 2018
Journalists at two regional meetings organised by the Federation of African Journalists and Ethical Journalism Network have called on media to take steps to address the issue of hate speech in media ahead of key elections in the Central and West Africa.
Representatives from Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo and Congo Brazzaville, met in Douala from 26-27 February hosted by the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, while delegates from Bénin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo met in Abuja from 1-2 March hosted by the Nigerian Journalists Union (NUJ).
Both meetings agreed that hate speech, fake news and abusive exploitation of information technology are endangering pluralism, democracy and the defence of human rights. The meetings, which brought together over 80 journalists, editors, industry regulators and educators, reaffirmed that ethical journalism is the key to bring the kind of information that democracy needs to survive and thrive.
African media professionals were called upon to support the continental campaign Turning The Page of Hate to expose, isolate and eliminate all forms of incitement to intense hatred and violence and called on journalists unions and other partners to promote practical tools such as the 5-point test for hate-speech for training of journalists in newsrooms and for freelance reporters.
As a result of the meetings the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) and Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have undertaken to work with all relevant stakeholders to update ethical codes across region so that they adequately deal with the growing threat of hate speech, terrorism and violent extremism.
Participants welcomed the timely nature of the event and called on the EJN and FAJ to work with media groups to create election reporting guidelines and hate speech glossaries ahead of the elections in Cameroon, DR Congo, Gambia, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Togo and elsewhere in the region. It was also agreed that FAJ and EJN shall develop a long-term strategic plan for similar interventions ahead of other elections in Africa.
The meeting also put forward a programme to improve ethics, good governance and self-regulation; fight corruption in the newsroom; strengthen reporting of terrorism and violent extremism; updating and enhancing how journalism is taught; as well as developing holistic media literacy programmes that bring together, media owners, regulatory bodies, journalist unions, academic institutions, media development groups and civil society.
The full declarations and plans adopted by the meetings in Abuja and Douala are attached to this press release. They can also be found here:
Abdulwaheed Oduola Odusile, President, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
“The programme has enlightened our members and equipped them with useful resources and information to help them uphold the ethics and standards of our profession. We look forward to engaging in further activities with the Ethical Journalism Network in order to improve conflict sensitive reporting and election coverage.”
Alh. Muhktar Gidado, Deputy President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
“The theme of the conference was appropriate at this moment when African countries including Nigeria are attempting to consolidate democratic governance. I encourage all colleagues across Africa to adapt to defend digital rights in the context of freedom of expression and the citizens right to know. We must practice our profession according to its ethical standards to meet the expectations of our audience and because the survival of any democracy depends on a credible and unrelenting media. The Nigeria Union of Journalists and Federation of African Journalists will continue to work to improve the capacity of our members so that we have an objective, balanced and accurate news media that is accountable to our audience.”
Denis Nkwebo, CJTU President, Union National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC)
“The celebration of the democratic era in most African states has been jeopadised by the withdrawal of identity, the culture of hatred and political violence, and this requests our responsibility as actors of freedom of expression, actors of cohabitation peaceful, actors of social cohesion, actors of tolerance and political pluralism.”
Chris Elliott, Board Member of the Ethical Journalism Network
“It was a privilege to meet and learn from so many journalists dedicated to spreading the practice of ethical journalism in their daily work, especially at such a critical time when elections are in the offing in many countries. Their acute insight into the problems facing news organisations in the region and the practical solutions our colleagues offered was profoundly encouraging.”
Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
Gabriel Baglo, General Secretary
Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Shuaibu Leman, National Secretary
Cameroon Journalists Trade Union (CJTU)
Denis Nwkado, President
Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
Tom Law, Director of Campaigns and Communications
About the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
The Ethical Journalism Network aims to strengthen the craft of journalism and to promote for the public benefit high ethical standards in media through education, training and publication of useful research.
About the Turning the Page of Hate campaign
The dangers of hate speech in journalism are well known and can have tragic consequences. In response, the Ethical Journalism Network launched the Turning the Page of Hate campaign in 2014 to mark the 20-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Since the EJN has held regional events in Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, and Tanzania to mobilise journalism at all levels against the manipulation of media and journalism as weapons of hatred and incitement to violence.
The EJN 5-point test for hate speech
- As part of the campaign the EJN created a 5-point test for journalists to use to identify hate speech and report on it with ethical content.
- For more context and details about how to use the five-point test for hate speech, read the EJN’s extended guidelines.
- The EJN’s 5-point test infographic has been translated into over 20 languages and can be downloaded for use in newsrooms and for training.
- Contact the EJN if you would like to join campaign.