By Hans Ngala, Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Bamenda – Since the abrupt shut down of the Internet over a month ago in the Northwest and Southwest regions, residents of the two English-speaking provinces have since resorted to other means to communicate. One of them has been via short message services (SMS’s).
This medium, though previously available, was barely used owing to the fact that most residents in the regions were already used to going online for information. But right now, SMS are the closest thing to the internet for everyone in the regions.
It’s worth noting here that since the internet blackout on January 17, government has still not made any statement on the shutdown, instead, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPSOTEL) has continually flooded subscribers’ phones with threatening texts. A
typical text from the Ministry reads like this; “Dear subscriber, you may spend 6 months to years in prison and pay a fine of 5 to 10 Million CFA for spreading false information on social media.” The harassing automated messages have annoyed several Anglophone Cameroonians with some asking how they can spread information on a platform they no longer have access to.
“They should better send those messages to people in the eight other regions who are enjoying internet services unperturbed and who are oblivious of the fact that their English-speaking brothers are suffering,” a man who preferred not to be named told The Cameroon Journal. “This is the height of madness,” he added.
The problem with threatening text messages from authorities isn’t the only concern of the people .They are worried over the authenticity of information they receive via SMS, “It becomes very tricky to know the origin of a text message you’re reading. With social media, there was often a picture accompanying the story you were reading,” a Nigerian student in UB told us. He went on; “While it could sometimes be false, it was much easier to verify its source and how true it was. With SMS, you don’t have that kind of liberty. You have no choice than to believe what you are reading most of the time…” He said.
While SMS have their downside, they remain the most cost-effective means that Anglophones now have to communicate. Calls are rather expensive and especially dangerous to communicate on the current crisis as there are rumors that phone lines are being tapped by persons working for authorities in Yaoundé.
As it stands, government remains mute, refusing to make a statement on the situation and there are no signs that internet services will be re-installed any time soon.