By Petiuh Frederick Tandah, AFF Cameroon Cohort 7 Fellow.
There has been a significant increase in the practice of nonprofessional Journalism ( citizen Journalism) in the Northwest region of Cameroon since 2016 which has registered both negative and positive effects on the region.
According to research and projects carried out in Cameroon, The term “citizen Journalism” has been defined by different scholars as it has no specific definition.
While Some suggest citizen journalists are unpaid variants of professional journalists who nevertheless follow the rules of the road (“semi-professional amateurs”),
Others assert that citizen journalists are those who don’t have the time to fully report the news, and who lack the technical abilities or knowledge to produce a coherent story.
However, scholars remind us that citizen journalists are usually ordinary people who happen to be present when extraordinary events take place and thus are simply “accidental” bystanders .
Citizen Journalism practice in Cameroon can be traced To the Boko Haram insurgency attacks in Cameroon’s northern region and during the Anglophone crisis, where citizen journalism became increasingly popular. Amateur journalists began creating and disseminating unconfirmed news as a result of the repeated attacks. Article
Citizen journalism in the Northwest region of Cameroon has significantly increased since the beginning of the Anglophone Crisis in 2016. Coupled with the presence of the internet and smartphones. (improvement in Technology), many people in Bamenda have been sharing unverified posts on social media sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
A citizen Journalism post of ghost town amidst school assumptions in the Northwest Region.
Due to the repeated attacks by both parties. (Government forces and separatist fighters), people just post as they feel. Some even create pages and forms with different names in and out Of the country with thousands of followers. Just because they are found at the event, or it happens beside them, they just feel like sharing.
A Citizen Journalism Post on the Death of primary school pupil at New Road, Nkwen Bamenda.
Research has equally shown that most of these posts from citizen journalists have gone a long way to promote the ongoing Crisis in both the Northwest and Southwest regions as some of the posts Create tension, hate, prejudices, etc.
Citizen journalism Post that helps to fuel the ongoing Crisis
Citizen journalism posts that creates tension and further fuels the crisis.
Some posts from citizen journalists have equally helped in promoting hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation as well as affected the region Economically as many fake ghost towns are mostly posted by Citizen journalists and are respected by the population. By staying at home for days( 10 days, 1 month, etc) it affects the region economically as well as it increases theft and dug consumption among youths.
Misinformation, malinformation, and disinformation have been on the rise since the outbreak of citizen journalism. Within the context of the Anglophone crisis, people take advantage to settle their scores with their enemies. Some people frame others, while others leak secrets, just to harm others and damage their reputations, with the help of social media.
Nevertheless, despite all the negative sides of citizen Journalism, there are equally positive aspect like that of pressure. With the pressure it comes with, it forces many policies to change. As a result of some none professional posts, many policies are bound to change. Some Examples are the tax policy that was introduced by MTN communication network, the increase in the prices of basic commodities, among others. Because of citizen journalists, most of these policies had to change.
A citizen journalist post against MTN mobile mobile money Tax
The term (citizen journalism) has equally been praised for its advantages. Despite being discredited, many media houses in the northwest region now work with citizen journalists. They use most of them as their sources of information. ( but the articles are edited by professional journalists before publishing). Radio stations like City FM, the Guardian post newspaper, and the Post Newspaper use citizen journalists as their sources.
Apart from working with some of these citizen journalists, the practice has equally influenced mainstream media to own social media handles, blogs, and pages. Most radio stations, Print media, and even TV stations now own blogs, websites, and social media pages to be able to survive and equally maintain its audience and it’s position.
Blog/wsbsite page of CBS radio Bamenda, with hundreds of thousands of followers.
One of the most important activities or achievements of citizen journalism is that it acts as the watchdog of society. It usually acts as a whistle-blower in the Northwest region. They are constantly telling society about most illegal activities ongoing which are most at times not reported by the mainstream media. They equally expose excesses of both authorities as well.
Though the practice of Citizen journalism has been intensified by the ongoing Anglophone crisis, despite all it’s disadvantages, shortcomings and disruptive effects, it should not be forgotten that, this same practice has equally recorded many positive changes such as policies changes, watchdog of the Northwest region, many media institutions both private and public in the region now work hand in hand with some of the citizen journalists , as well as it has also urge if not all, most media institutions to own social media handles, blogs, websites , facebook pades and what have you.
- Media Schools and training institutions should include citizen journalism as a course (subject) as trained journalists shall constantly be challenged by citizen journalists with the increasing rise of social media usage.
- With the world becoming Digitalized every day, citizen journalists should be recognized and should be exploited by professional journalists, who can further verify these stories to meet social standards and publish.
- Instead of discrediting, debunking, trying to abolish it, and seeing just the negative aspects of citizen journalists, we should remember that they have contributed immensely to bring great changes in the past and in contemporary society. Thus there is a need for a minimum of media education and most importantly social media usage.