By Amindeh Blaise Atabong, January 30, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – International press freedom advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders has denounced President Paul Biya regime’s “multiple violations of freedom of information” following mass protests by Anglophone groupings. Other journalists’ outfits have equally condemned the Cameroon government.
Reporters Without Borders noted in a press statement that the government has deprived the country’s English-speaking regions of Internet access since January 17, to prevent the local population from using online social networks to exchange information about the protests. It equally said mobile phone operators have transmitted messages from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warning users not to circulate “false information” on the Internet or on online social networks.
“Not content with depriving the English-speaking regions of the means of communication and information, the authorities have banned Cameroon’s traditional media from covering these issues.
“In a statement broadcast by national radio and TV on January20, National Communication Council President Peter Essoka warned ‘all national state and privately-owned media from publishing or broadcasting any statement tending to condone secession or federalism on pain of temporary suspension [or] a permanent operations ban’,” a recent statement released by RSF read.
In his statement, which has been widely criticized by journalists’ associations and human rights groups, Essoka named seven media outlets that, he said, had been committing these offences.
“We condemn these measures aimed at intimidating and censoring the media,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The Cameroonian government is facing a political crisis but censoring media that cover this story will not help the government to resolve it more quickly.
“These measures are the latest in a series of decisions that violate freedom of information and seek to gag Cameroonian media outlets which, although sometimes frenetic, have a right to work freely.”
Mbom Sixtus, Senior Strategy & Advocacy Coordinator for the Association of Combined Action to Protect and Empower Journalists, ACAPEJ, told The Cameroon Journal the recent government actions were “undemocratic.” He held that such developments only take the country many years backward.
Also, Jean Bruno Tagne, President of the National Syndicate of Cameroon Journalists, is quoted by Radio France Internationale as saying that the Anglophone crisis is a Cameroonian problem and so Cameroonian TV channels should be free to talk about it.
It should be recalled the Governor of the North West Region had on January 11, sealed Radio Hot Cocoa in Bamenda. The Government has also instructed all broadcast media to desist from organizing phone-in programmes about the current political crisis.
Cameroon is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.