The government of Cameroon has officially launched a campaign against the use of social media which has taken over completely—serving as a rallying medium that could be use to change the helm of governance.
It comes after the several citizens has been taking to social media platforms to misinterprets and deform facts among others over certain issues revolving in Cameroon.
Mail and Guardian reports below:
The government of Cameroon has launched a campaign against social media, which according to the government-controlled daily, Cameroon Tribune, is “fast becoming a threat to peace and a secret instrument of manipulation” promoting “character destruction, destabilisation of public opinion and deformation of facts among others.”
According to the bilingual daily, which published a special edition headlined “Dérives sur les réseaux sociaux : la cote d’alerte” (“The downward spiral on social media has reached alarming levels”):
A careful analysis of the situation tells of a phenomenon that is proving to be dangerous for society if no measures are taken to scale it down. This is important especially as elections are approaching. People with political ambitions may dive into it and use it to fight their opponents.
Other government media outlets, particularly the state-controlled Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), have also joined the campaign to highlight the alleged ills of social media and the need for social media regulation in Cameroon. This was the case, for example, of the French (audio) and English (audio) language radio newscasts of November 1.
The immediate cause of the government’s outrage was the deadly train derailment in Eseka, some 74 miles west of Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, which resulted in the death of at least 80 people and injured over 600 on October 21, 2016.
While social media users were nimble in sharing information about the disaster in real time, government officials and government-owned traditional media were slow to respond to, and inform the public about, the accident.
In fact, pictures and videos of the tragedy were already being posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms when the government and Camrail (a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Bolloré that manages the railway system in Cameroon) were still denying that an accident occurred.
Once government officials finally conceded that there had been a train accident, social media played a vital role in providing an alternative narrative to official accounts about the derailment, for example, making the case that overcrowding and defective Chinese-made carriages were likely contributing factors, not just speed as Bolloré officials claimed.
For example, in an ironic tweet, user @pahedipoula posted a picture of one of the overcrowded carriages of the ill-fated train.
The anti-social media campaign was taken a notch higher on November 10 when, in a speech to parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Cavaye Djibril, complained about “the social malaise” caused by the “insidious effects of the social media” in Cameroon, which he described as “a new form of terrorism”:
Social media… is now being used for misinformation, and even intoxication and manipulation of consciences thereby instilling fear in the general public.
In fact, it has become as dangerous as a missile… In a nutshell, social media has become a real social pandemic in Cameroon… I urge the appropriate authorities to see the pressing need to track down and neutralise the culprits of cyber crimes… we should know that there is a limit to freedom, for freedom without limit stifles freedom.
The speaker’s statement seemed to confirm persistent claims that the government is drafting a social media bill to stifle speech on social media.”