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Catholic Journalists in West Africa Cautioned against Promoting Terrorism in News Reports

Some participants attending the refresher course organized by UCAP Burkina Faso for Catholic Journalists in West Africa. Credit: UCAP Burkina Faso

Catholic Journalists in West Africa have been cautioned against a journalism practice that seems to promote activities of terrorism in the Sahel region.

Addressing Catholic journalists drawn from West African countries during a six-day refresher course in Burkina Faso, the President of the Union of the African Catholic Press (UCAP) in the West African country linked the spread of terrorism to news reports.

“The spread of terrorism depends largely on the images and messages conveyed by reports of terrorist acts and threats,” Alexandre Le Grand Rouamba said September 11.

The UCAP-Burkina Faso President added, “We must work for the advancement of our country and the Sahel region and not propagate terrorist acts that aim to scare the population.”

During the six-day workshop organized in Burkina Faso’s Bobo-Dioulasso Archdiocese from September 8, Mr. Rouamba invited the over 70 Catholic journalists hailing from Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali to construct narratives that foster peace and cohesion locally, nationally, and regionally.

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Dubbed “Refresher Bobo 2021”, the workshop that is set to conclude Monday, September 13, is being held under the theme, “Media without promoting insecurity: role and duty of journalists and the media.”

UCAP-Burkina Faso President cautioned journalists against giving media visibility to actors of terrorism.

“The resurgence of violence calls for an effective response from media actors to avoid giving visibility to the perpetrators of these crimes. It is important to address these issues and to take full measure of the sensitive nature of information related to terrorism,” Mr. Rouamba said.

He posed, “Should we continue to spread a culture of violence that feeds terrorism? Should the terrorist affect the importance of freedom of expression and information in the media?”

“How can we inform the public without unduly accentuating the impact of terrorism? How can we avoid playing into the hands of terrorists by a frantic race for information and sensationalist images?” Mr. Rouamba probed further.

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Also speaking during the September 11 session, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Communication and Relations with Parliament, Ouéssini Tamboura, said that journalists the responsibility to “give true and balanced information on terrorist attacks without promoting terrorism.”

The government official noted that after the first terrorist attacks recorded in 2015, several actions were taken by the government to regulate the practice of journalism in times of war and to sensitize media men and women, and public opinion about the risks of aggravating the situation by wanting to provide information.

“Fake news on social media is the ‘eldest daughter of terrorism’, affecting the morale of troops and did as much damage as the terrorists' weapons,” the Burkinabe Minister said.

The government of Burkina Faso, he continued, had therefore amended the Penal Code to “give itself the means not to weaken the fight.”

“This modification has not restricted the freedom of the press,” Minister Tamboura said.

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He called up on Catholic journalists to respect the ethics and deontology of their profession, considering that the media are not on the sidelines of this war, which is also the war of information.

Meanwhile, in his address to the Catholic journalists during the opening session of the workshop on September 9, UCAP President, George Sunguh, thanked UCAP-Burkina Faso President for the workshop initiative.

“I would like to begin by congratulating UCAP Burkina Faso for its tenacity in organizing refresher courses in West Africa,” Mr. Sunguh said.

The Kenya-based head of the association of Catholic journalists in Africa added in reference to the six-day refresher course, “This act is quite encouraging and has helped fly the UCAP flag high in this part of the world.”

Mr. Sunguh encouraged other countries in Africa to organize similar forums saying, “I would like to call upon other UCAP national chapters to emulate this impressive deed by UCAP Burkina Faso.”

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In his message to the Catholic journalists participating in the workshop in Burkina Faso, which he shared with ACI Africa, Mr. Sunguh says plans are underway for UCAP Congress later this year in the West African nation of Togo.

“As you may already know, the UCAP Continental Congress was initially scheduled for Libreville, Gabon but was postponed and rescheduled for Togo,” Mr. Sunguh says, and adds, “Unfortunately, the global health crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic has slowed our initial plans.”

“The Executive Board of the UCAP Africa in collaboration with UCAP Togo are currently planning the 2021 Congress. The venue will be Kpalime, which is 120km West of Lome – the Togolese capital” Mr. Sunguh says of the five-day Congress expected to take place from December 13.

“We welcome each and every one of you to this grand congress where we expect the participant from across Africa,” UCAP President further says of the planned Congress being organized under the theme, “Mediating Conflict, Violence, and Migration in Africa: An Examination of Underlying Factors Towards Building Sustainable Pillars of Self Determination and Human Dignity.”

Mr. Sunguh adds, “We trust and pray to God Almighty that He blesses our work and that all we do, plan and think be only that which glorifies His name.”