#Defyhatenow Organises Mega Conference To Address Digital Threats To Elections

Mar 26, 2024

Fellows of one of the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship cohorts of #defyhatenow pose for a family picture | photo credit: #defyhatenow

By Njodzeka Danhatu

Cameroon is advancing into an election year in 2025 and it is probable that politicians, media and influencers will be embroiled in fake news while trying to woe or inform voters. #Defyhatenow, a Non-Governmental Organization famous for providing community-based and data-driven solutions to the problem of hate speech, disinformation and misinformation, while referring the 2018 Presidential election, said the post-electoral crisis spurred by tribal undertones has been fuelling tensions both online and offline. This, it said, created a pseudo ethnic and political divide leading to the emergence of “Tontinard” vs “Sardinard” rhetoric. 

In order to be proactive to shun such a divide, #defyhatenow Cameroon has organised a conference to address threats and lay out strategies to combat disinformation during election period.

The two-day-event scheduled on March 27-28 in Yaounde is poised to bring expert who will imbued the expected over 300 participants on ways of fact checking and debunking false information among others.

“The multi-stakeholder Conference’s overall objective is to initiate a public discourse on addressing the root causes of disinformation, its manifestation and consequences on Cameroon as a whole; exchange notes on best practices to advance fact-checking in Africa with guest experts from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria based on their countries’ experiences in countering disinformation and online hate speech during election period,” a press release from the institution on March 20 stated.

Though bordering on “Addressing Digital Threats to Elections in Cameroon: Counter Strategies against Disinformation during Election Period” the various presenters will dwell on: the impact of internet shutdown on the spread of dis/misinformation and the promotion of democracy; How to detect fake news generated by AI, definition, techniques and tools; and elections, human rights  and tackling disinformation and hate speech. Or what needs to be done to guarantee the protection of journalists/fact checkers during elections?

Also, digitalisation and digital visibility of political parties to combat disinformation and hate speech in Cameroon; how to deal with propaganda during elections in Cameroon; and deconstructing fake news and promoting youth civic participation during elections would be highlighted among others.

According to Ngala Desmond, Country Project Manager #defyhatenow, the conference in Yaounde is timely and seeks to set the pace for a series of activities that will be carried out in the run-up to the elections in Cameroon, come 2025. 

“As the name of our association, Civic Watch, rightly states, we are encouraging all Cameroonians to fulfil their civic responsibilities, but they need to do so while being watchful of their words and actions,” said Ngala Desmond adding that “At the end of this conference, our aim is proposing more effective preventive and reactive responses to guide future efforts to protect electoral integrity and prevent electoral violence.” 

The conference will engage many sectors in the country and among them are public and private institutions, political parties, diplomatic missions, international and national organisations, higher institutes of learning, media associations and founders of digital platforms, Elections Cameroon officials and civil society leaders.

Some of the participants expected at Njeuga Palace Hotel are over 200 fellows from the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship categorised from cohort one to nine.

These fellows will define new perspectives for coordinated actions in the fight against disinformation in a meaningful way by collaborating with public and private institutions; raise awareness and increase the commitment of public authorities, organisations and corporations in the fight against disinformation; and Initiate an action plan for a coordinated response to disinformation, enabling joint responses to be defined between the various actors and stakeholders, among others.

The will equally share new ideas and practices to advance fact-checking in Cameroon and Africa to  better combat disinformation and online hate speech during election periods; reduce the gap between perceptions and the reality observed on the ground and the challenges of disinformation on peace; and promote media and information literacy.

The All #AFFCameroon Conference 2024 will witness the presence of the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, the EU Ambassador to Cameroon, German Ambassador to Cameroon and the Director General of Elections Cameroon.