Strengthening the professional capacities of men and women in the media is one of UNOCA's priorities, given their crucial role in building and promoting peace. In November 2013, journalists set up a "Sub-regional Media Forum for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Central Africa" following a seminar in Douala, Cameroon, organized by UNOCA in collaboration with the UN Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (UNCHRD-CA). In May 2015, Douala hosted another regional workshop initiated by UNOCA on the role of the media in the conduct and promotion of peaceful electoral processes in Central Africa. This activity was supported by the UNCHRD-CA and the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) as well as the collaboration of the UNESCO Central Africa Office, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and of the Government of Cameroon.
Twenty journalists from nine countries took part in the workshop: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Rwanda. The participants not only considered international and regional instruments as well as the legal framework of elections in Central Africa, but they were also made aware of journalistic practice during the electoral period, including aspects relating to ethics and deontology. They were also sensitized on their role in preventing and managing pre- and post-electoral crises as well as in protecting human rights during electoral processes.
At the end of the workshop, the participants adopted a Code of Good Conduct for the Media and Journalists of Central Africa during electoral period. The Code emphasizes, among others, the need to avoid corruption, sensationalism and biased reporting as well as radical discourses or media stories. In recommendations in the appendix of the Code, the participants call upon OIF, the United Nations, particularly UNOCA, UNCHRD-CA and UNESCO, to support actions related to the implementation of the Code. It also underlines the need to organize awareness campaign and training for journalists in countries engaged in electoral processes as well as to evaluate media publications or broadcasts during the electoral period.
In this context and in light of the political agenda and electoral calendar of the countries in the sub-region, UNOCA and its partners organized a follow-up workshop in Bangui, Central African Republic, in September 2015 in collaboration with the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This activity reinforced the crucial role played by the United Nations in the mediation process that led to the National Reconciliation Forum in May 2015 and the legislative and presidential elections in December 2015 and February 2016. Similar workshops were organized prior to the presidential elections in other countries, including Brazzaville (Congo), Ndjamena (Chad), Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), Sao Tome (Sao Tome and Principe) and Libreville, Port-Gentil, Franceville and Oyem (Gabon).
The Strategic Communications & Public Information Unit continues this important activity by cooperating with UN partners to contribute to the development of a high-quality press. This includes the implementation of Resolution 2222 (2015) relating to the protection of journalists, which was unanimously adopted on 27 May 2015 by the United Nations Security Council. "The work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and thereby can contribute to the protection of civilians," says the resolution, which calls on states to "end impunity” for crimes committed against journalists.