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Media Regulators To Harmonise Procedures 

Media regulators from Central and West Africa have resolved to harmonise the treatment procedures on complaints and elaborate communication strategies in the sector.
They took the resolution at the end of a two-day seminar organised by the Cameroon’s National Communication Council, NCC, from May 12-13 in Yaounde. The resolution was taken in a bid to render the media more responsible and make it a veritable development tool. 
The President of the High Authority of Audiovisual and Communication, HAAC, Biossey Kokou Tozoun, presented the recommendations which were welcomed and adopted as resolutions. A follow-up commission, which will be headed by Cameroon for the Central Africa zone, was formed to work on how to develop and harmonise the rules. 
Hinged on the theme: “The harmonisation of complaint-handling procedures and regulation of Central Africa Media regulators,” the seminar was an arena for participants, to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their various media regulatory organs. 
“In our country, where there is an immense proliferation of the media, the regulation takes a different form. There are about 400 community radios and more than 200 TV channels and about 200 – 300 hundred newspapers. Regulation at times becomes very difficult,” explained the President of the Superior Council of Audiovisual Communication, CSCA, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rev. Father Jean Bosco Bahala Okw’ibale. 
Okw’ibale said the Communication Council in his country plays a pedagogic role because some media practitioners do not know the law, while others do not respect the ethics and deontology of the profession. He asserted that there are some media organs that are controlled by political forces and that, in such cases, defamation and public insults triumph. In such situations, he went on, the Communication Council is forced to come in and put order. 
He, however, stated that in the DRC, their relationship with the media is good.
“There were moments when some media organs did not respect our rules but all this has ended,” he said.
According to the President of the Superior Council of Communication, CSC, in Niger, Abdourahamane Ousmane, before a media organ advertises a traditional medicine, they are supposed to have an authorisation from the Minister of Health, but some are recalcitrant. 
“There is an association which has been set-up by some medical experts who have carried out research on traditional medicine and discovered that some plants are very effective in curing diseases like malaria and hemorrhoids. There is a committee of experts that validate the authenticity of the plant,” he explained. 
Abdourahamane added that it is only after the Minister gives an authorisation that the medicine can be advertised. 
“If a media organ doesn’t take the necessary precaution before advertising a traditional medicine, the CSC has the power to take sanctions against the media in question,” he reiterated.
During the seminar, the Vice President of the NCC, Peter Essoka, raised the issue where an international organisation, Reporters Without Borders, accused them of acting as a repression tool against the media in Cameroon. 
In this light, the President of the CSC of Niger said, international organisations, at times, base their analysis on what their correspondents in such countries feed them with. To him, there is the necessity of dialogue with the communication councils, so that these organisations can understand the need of the council.
On his part, the President of CSCA said, during the war in Congo, the French International Radio, RFI, made some smear campaigns against the country. He stated that, at times, international organisations do not respect the sovereignty of countries. 
Peter Essoka said that another issue plaguing the subregion is the fact that there are regulatory boards or organs that can only regulate the audiovisual and not the print. And there are others that regulate both. 
“Consequently, we will have to find the way whereby all of the regulatory bodies in Africa should have the same procedure,” he stated. 
During the opening ceremony, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s Minister of Communication and representative of the Head of State, said through the harmonisation process and their diverse experiences, they will promote freedom of expression and at the same time sanction any unprofessional act. 
To the President of the National Communication Council, His Lordship Befe Ateba, during the 3rd conference of Presidents of the Regulatory Organs organised by the Francophone Network of Media Regulators, REFRAM, in October 2013 in N’djamena, Chad, there was the urgent need to organise the seminar. 
“Media regulators have to be watchdogs in the different communication fields in respect of the rules and regulations of the State, by applying ethics and deontology, in order to protect those who are vulnerable in the society,” he said.
The President of REFRAM, who is also the President of the High Council of Communication, HCC, of Chad, Moustapha Ali Alifei, said the adoption of a transparent circuit for the handling of complaints will contribute to the reinforcement of a legitimate regulator. 
Julie Godignon of the International Organisation of la Francophonie said the media play a primordial role in the construction of the Liberty Square (place where expressions are aired). 
“Without a Liberty Square, there is no democracy, nor reliable information. The information will be incomplete and will not be shared by all,” she stated.
Participants who answered present at the two day seminar came from: Benin, Burundi, DRC, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.
The next rendezvous will be in Kinshasa, in the DRC during the first semestre of 2015, to evaluate and know how they have evolved in the regulations.  
By Elizabeth Enanga Mokake & Victorine Sirri Neba