WPFD 2023 Commentary: Media dying of 'Slow Poison' in Conflict Zones

By Bakah Derick 

This year on May 3rd, like has been the case for the past couple of years, Media Professionals around the world will observe Press Freedom Day. This year reflections are centered around “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights” 

The interpretation of this theme is varried depending on the circumstances the professionals find themselves. For over six years and counting, Media professionals in conflict zones in Cameroon have been subjected to practice in conditions far from those of their colleagues in relatively peaceful areas. 

Apart from income reduction or drying up of potential sources of income for these media organizations in the conflict zones, the safety of workers, quality of work, accessibility electricity and internet amongst others have made things difficult for media to flourish. 

There are a good number of media organizations especially radio stations in parts of the North West Region that function for less than five hours a day because they use generators. They have not seen electricity supply for not less than 5 fives... 

The Armed conflict has a profound impact on the media, with journalists often facing immense danger and obstacles in their efforts to report on events. This impact is seen in a range of ways, from censorship and propaganda to physical violence and intimidation.
One of the most immediate impacts is the danger faced by journalists. Journalists have been targeted for their reporting, with threats, harassment, and violence common. This makes it difficult for journalists to report accurately and objectively on events, as they are forced to self-censor or rely on limited sources of information.

Another impact on the media is censorship and propaganda. In the North West, governments and other powerful actors attempt to control the narrative around the conflict, often through the use of censorship and propaganda. This makes it difficult for journalists to report on sensitive issues, as they may face reprisals for doing so.

This is now clearly seen in the quality of reporting. In many parts of the North West and South West regions, access to information is limited, making it difficult for journalists to report accurately and comprehensively on events. This leads to a lack of context and analysis, as well as an overreliance on official sources of information.

Despite these challenges, journalists continue to play a vital role in informing the public about events in these conflict zones. Through their reporting, they provide a window into the realities of war and its impact on communities. They also hold those in power accountable for their actions, shining a light on human rights abuses and other violations.
However, in order to do their work effectively, journalists need support and protection. This includes providing them with training and resources to navigate the risks associated with reporting in these regions, as well as ensuring their safety and security. It also means promoting transparency and accountability, so that journalists can report on sensitive issues without fear of reprisals.

The way that conflict is covered by the international media is also of great concern. This conflict has receive less coverage than those in the West, with journalists and news organizations often facing limited resources and logistical challenges and for the few who do, the enjoy an elitist privilege from those in charge. 

This is leading to lack of understanding and empathy for those affected by conflict, as well as a skewed understanding of the causes and consequences of war. This is aslo contributinv to a sense of isolation and marginalization among communities affected by conflict, who may feel that their stories are not being heard or valued.

In order to address these issues, it is important to support independent media outlets in the North West and South West regions, as well as to promote cross-border collaboration and information sharing. 

The impact of this armed conflict on the media is a complex and multifaceted issue, with no easy solutions. However, by supporting journalists and promoting transparency and accountability, we can help to ensure that the public is informed about events in concerned regions, and that those in power are held accountable for their actions. In doing so, we can work towards a more just and peaceful world.

Watch out for our hardcopy print ahead of world press freedom day 

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