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Arte in Cameroon; Social media, hate speech and Elections

Social media platforms are gaining more grounds in various parts of the world and Cameroon inclusive due to various factors. A good number of people who use them are youth and they spend a lot of hours daily. Social media platforms are important sources of socialization and relationship-building for many young people. Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health. Girls and other youth who identify as sexual and gender minorities are most often considered as targets. 

Youth’s brains are still developing, and as individuals, they are always in a quest to develop their desired identities, especially online. What they see on social media can define what is expected in ways that is not accurate and that can be destructive to identity development and self-image. Adolescence is a time of risk-taking, which is both a strength and a vulnerability. Social media can exacerbate risks, as we have seen played out in the news by arte.tv. 

ARTE.TV and Background 

ARTE is a European public service channel dedicated to culture that is 95% funded by France and Germany, each of which has their own specific funding arrangements for public service broadcasting. Its full appellation is Association relative à la télévision européenne (Association relating to European television), sometimes stylized in lowercase or uppercase in its logo) is a European public service channel dedicated to culture.

ARTE is a symbol of Franco-German friendship. The project, which had been championed since 1988 by French President François Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, came to fruition on 2 October 1990, when a Treaty was signed between France and the German Länder.

It began as a project to promote Franco-German understanding – nowadays ARTE is a channel for Europe. The birth of ARTE and German reunification went hand in hand: the contract to establish the Franco-German cultural channel was signed on 2 October 1990, the day before German reunification.

ARTE.TV’s Visit and Impact to Our work at #defyhatenow and Civic Watch 

As elections are fast approaching in Cameroon, the arte.tv team thought to visit cameroon to have a first hand feel of how social media is used particularly by youth and students, their aim was to know exactly the kind of messages young people push on social media and how it is managed by those who are meant to regulate actions on these platforms. 

That’s why in mid October 2023, the ARTE.TV team was in Cameroon to meet actors and stakeholders working on #HateSpeech, #Mis/Disinformation both online and offline. In abid  to know more about what we do to counter #Disinformation and #HateSpeech online in Cameroon and being a youth-led initiative that works around this mandate, our country manager @Ngala Desmond was interviewed and he shared insight and foresight on the activities we run with community based organisations, youth leaders and other institutions. It was great having them around and being interviewed on the #defyhatenow initiative and its implementation in Cameroon. 

#defyhatenow Cameroon works on providing community-based and data-driven solutions to the problem of hate speech, disinformation and misinformation. The initiative seeks to support the voices and actions of citizens working against online-induced conflict within and outside affected regions by bringing youth, community leaders, grassroots organisations and further civil society stakeholders into a peace-oriented media and information literacy framework. Bridging gaps of knowledge and awareness of social media mechanisms between those with access to technology and those without, #defyhatenow is a growing network of online and offline peacebuilders. 

The project is implemented by Civic Watch, a community-based organisation registered in Cameroon as a non-profit youth led organisation. Civic Watch acts as an intermediary organisation for schools, civic debate spaces or separate public/private organisations for learning and exploring questions of participation and accountability of locally elected officials. Its main goal merges with the initiative’s mandate, which is community mobilisation to counter hateful rhetoric among young people both online and offline. 

We believe that this interview is important as it will project our work to the world and what we do in Cameroon as a youth led initiative/organisation towards building peaceful communities whether on/offline and a #HateFreeCameroon before and after the elections come 2025.

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