Violence Against women is a Human Rights violation. The outbreak of COVID-19 came to further complicate an already complex situation which media women in Cameroon have been facing: online and offline harassment. 1. Specific threats:
• Some female journalists who covered political issues in the conflict ridden NW and SW regions of Cameroon came under double oppression. On the one hand from separatist fighters who ask them to stop reporting activities by government officials and on the other hand by government officials who warn that certain details about how separatist groups torment public figures, convoys of officials on assignment and other related violence should not be mentioned.
• Molestation, monitoring of movements and telephone conversations, advised to change numbers and outright threats of kidnapping, burning up to death and gunshots.
2. The most vulnerable women journalists are those who cover political issues, Advocates for dialogue and a return to Peace, others who witness confrontations between separatists fighters and government officials, including those who highlight the humanitarian situation of the 4 year long standing crisis.
3. The protection measures for women journalists who have suffered some form of violence is mostly individual. A good number of women Journalists who have suffered such threats were obliged to change telephone numbers, reduce time spent online, keep conversations strictly professional and impersonal, move towns for some time, others have been forced to move in with friends or relatives, while yet others have been frightened from practicing for several months now and are still on the run for safety.
4. Common forms of GBV in newsrooms in Cameroon include: verbal insults and demeaning behavior, psychological (refusal to assign to any tasks, undermining), sexual harassment, relegated to cover social, education, health and cultural beats as opposed to politics, economy and investigative reports. Appointments not based on competence and potential but on personal relations, ethnicity, political leanings and sometimes on other considerations rather than merit.
5. Despite the aforementioned situation, more and more women journalists have the courage to speak up when attacked but this depends on the nature and Author of the attack and violence. While most online violence are reported and decried almost immediately using similar media, many women journalists still fear to speak out against different forms of offline violence that prevents them from doing their work efficiently. This they explain is due to lack of trust in whom they should really confide in. Even if a survey were to be carried out, the data would barely be representative of the actual rate of violence women journalists are subjected to in Cameroon.
6. There are several negative impacts of violence on women journalists. The most recurrent include: loss of zeal to work, fear of hierarchy or male colleagues perpetrating the form of violence, loss of self-esteem and confidence and low output at work.
Done in Yaounde
On Wednesday 11th March 2020
By Tchonko Becky Bissong
National Coordinator AFMEC Chapter Head IAWRT Cameroon