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Stay Neutral While Covering Elections, Journalists Told 

By Nelen Tambe &Elizabeth Enanga Mokake* — Cameroonian journalists have been told to stay neutral while covering imminent twin elections. This was during a recent two-day workshop on media coverage of elections at the US Embassy in Yaounde.

Mary MacCarthy, an American Journalist who has worked for France 24 for seven years and presently working with Feature Story News agency, FSN, schooled participants on the role journalists have to play during elections, emphasising that journalists have to remain neutral and objective.

Mary MacCarthy reiterated that, during elections, news organs must know and publish the programmes of every political party, because some media end up echoing campaign messages for some political parties and leaving out on some. She said a journalist’s stance should not influence their report while covering elections.  “Even though journalists work in critical conditions like having difficult access to information and technology contrary to other countries, the journalist has to be balance in every report they do,” Mary reiterated.

During the workshop, participants revealed that one of the major setbacks of journalists in Cameroon in covering elections is that they do not master the Electoral Code. The Speaker of the workshop said it is unprofessional for a journalist to cover elections without mastering the law governing it because the journalist’s role is to inform and educate the public. Mary MacCarthy advised participants to research the life of a politician before interviewing him. She also urged journalists must be smart when interviewing politicians.

One of the problems Mary MacCarthy identified during the workshop is the rivalry between the public and private media in Cameroon, where access to information is very challenging.  “The challenges here in Cameroon are too much, compared to other countries like France and the USA where I work,” she said. At the end of the two-day workshop, Loveline Enjeh of Vision 4 Television said: “I learnt how to draw an interview protocol, write articles and prepare before going to the field in the case of elections,” explained.

Another participant, Jean de Dieu Bidias, of Mutations, said he had been covering elections but did not know the main tools of elections coverage, that is, what to do before, during and after elections. “This workshop is a great experience for me, as it will help me to be more professional in my reports for the upcoming municipal and legislative elections,” Jean de Dieu Bidias said. Meanwhile, the Information Officer at the Embassy, Timothy Lewis, encouraged journalists to keep up with the good fight they are engaged in.

*(ASMAC Student On Internship)

First published in The Post print edition no 01464

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