PROTEGE QV, an APC member organisation based in Cameroon, joined other local and international civil society organisations, entrepreneurs, internet service providers and content platforms for the multistakeholder symposium "Digital Rights and Elections in Cameroon: Fighting dangerous speech online while preserving digital rights". The symposium, which took place in Yaoundé on 12-13 September, was organised by Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders), in partnership with Paradigm Initiative, the Global Network Initiative, the Internet Society (ISOC), Facebook, Google and Access Now.
Julie Owono, the executive director of Internet Sans Frontières, welcomed participants to a panel with a representative of the Cameroonian Ministry of Communications, Melody Patry from Access Now, Rigobert Kenmogne of Paradigm Initiative, Aida Ndiaye from Facebook (Francophone Africa), and representatives of Elections Cameroon.
The Ministry of Communication representative emphasised the Cameroonian government's policy and its will to promote open internet in Cameroon, but also his position to fight against fake news and hate speech through social media to preserve peace in Cameroon. For their part, the Elections Cameroon representatives shared with participants how the registration process is carried out to provide citizens with voting cards in time, as well as the complaint procedure.
Aida Ndiaye spoke about Facebook's community standards with an emphasis on the detection of fake news by the platform's administrators, while ISOC Cameroon president Janvier Ngnoulaye called on the Cameroon government to establish norms on respectful use of social networks.
Participants insisted that governments in the region should provide information in time without waiting for "fake news" to take over social network platforms. They also called on Elections Cameroon and other government institutions to consistently update the data and information on their websites.
Meanwhile, participants from English-speaking regions in Cameroon shared testimonies about the damages and struggles they have faced during internet shutdowns in their regions.
The two-day symposium closed with the adoption of the Yaoundé Declaration, with calls for action by both the Cameroonian government and civil society to preserve the freedom, peace and stability of the internet. The Declaration's requests to the government include a call for it to respect the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.
Image: Participants during the "Digital Rights and Elections in Cameroon" symposium, shared by PROTEGE QV.