By Bakah Derick in Bamenda 

Youths online in Cameroon have been urged to stake their votes for any candidate for the October 7 Presidential Elections “depending on the interest and clear commitment  they make to promoting Internet access, free speech online, privacy and data protection.”
The appeal was made to the youth via media professionals in Bamenda last Tuesday during a vision casting mobile press conference by organisers of The Internet Freedom Festival Cameroon which is part of the annual Bamenda Human Rights Film and Arts Festival organized since 2011 by A Common Future Organisation.
A Common Future CEO addressing Mobile Press Conference
 Talking to over 30 press men and women, Digital Rights Activist and the Chief Executive Officer of A Common Future Organisation affirmed that “the media would have a big role to play in forcing all candidates to the upcoming Presidential Elections to factor the sponsorship of a Digital rights bill for Cameroon Internet users, given that the internet provides unprecedented opportunities for the realization of the human potential.” According to Colbert Gwain “if every journalist or media personality interacting with any of the #Etoudi2018 candidates urges him/her to factor in the protection of the internet and Internet access into their campaign manifestos and commits to protect and defend it , and that would make all the difference in Cameroon.”
Using the pretext of the ongoing presidential elections campaign where almost all candidates are using social media, A Common Future hopes to lobby them to factor the protection of Internet user’s rights. “Going by the past history of Internet shutdown in Cameroon, we would be urging candidates who are canvassing fir the attention of over three million voters online, to state what protection policies they hope to bring to the protection of online community once voted” Colbert said adding that “they must take commitment not to cross the bridge and burn it by even shutting down internet.”
The Internet Freedom Festival IFF programmed to run from July to this August for the first segment and until December for the next is taking place with the theme: curbing violence against women online.
On the theme, the CEO of A Common Future explains that the Festival intends to encourage and increase the active participation of women and girls online without harassment. The project he adds “seeks to promote a feminist Internet where women’s voices are not only heard but respect.”
According to statistics made public by the mobile press conference organisers, “women online, who make up only 20% to 25% of the online community routinely, face bullying, revenge porn, blackmail, and impersonation, non-consensual usage of personal information, privacy violations, sexual harassment, stalking and other forms of harassment.” These harassments, the organisations notes forces women to “simply react by withdrawing from online spaces.” These silencing of female voices online and the exclusion of women from public spaces and public life generally in Cameroon, “is a significant threat to freedom of expression.”
Inspired by the day to day vending of various items in travel agencies to reach the target, the IFF will be projecting films in interurban buses to articulate its content.
A Common Future hopes to create an internet environment in Cameroon where people especially women and girls are able to exercise their right to expression online without being threatened with the believe “that a free internet with access to information and impeccable privacy policies can encourage such a healthy and productive environment that would actually help not only women but Cameroonian so at large.” 
Derick BAKAH

Derick BAKAH

Bakah Derick is a Broadcast Presenter and Multimedia specialist with focus on sharing with the rest of the world the daily happenings in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. You can contact us on +237 675460750 or debakah2004@gmail.com.

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