19 May 2010
Mission Report says Cameroonian Journalists in Strong Fighting Spirit Despite Unprecedented Abuses
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the regional organization of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Africa, launched today the report of its solidarity mission to the Cameroon on the attacks on journalists and the press freedom situation, which took place from 3rd to 6th May.
The report entitled “JOURNALISTS UNDER FIRE: Report of Solidarity Mission to Cameroon” describes the climate of antagonism and suspicion between media and the government, resulting in increasing attacks on journalists, including harassment, intimidation and trials as well the poor working condition in which Cameroonian journalists work and live.
“We found considerable evidence of intimidation of journalists by Cameroonian authorities and security agencies” said FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman. “This is completely unacceptable and must stop. We made a direct call to the government to take their hands off the media and allow journalists to work freely without any form of intimidation.”
The mission, which included the FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman and FAJ Steering Committee member Stanislas Nkundiye, visited Douala and Yaoundé, and met journalists from the press and electronic media, human rights advocates, leading members of political parties, civil society organisations, and representatives of the international community as well as the Minister of Communications of Cameroon, the Honourable Issa Tchiroma Bakary, and UNESCO’s Communications and Information Advisor. The mission also paid a courtesy visit to the family of Jean-Marc Soboth, the First Secretary of the National Syndicate of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC), who is currently in exile and the family of journalist Bibi Ngota who died in jail.
The mission learned from journalists and their representatives in the Syndicat national des journalistes camerouniens details of the harassment, arbitrary arrests and abuse of journalists at the hand of the authorities and the use of criminal laws to put several in jail. “This situation is intolerable” added Faruk. “We received solid evidence about at least a dozen journalists that have been targeted by security agents, allegations of torture and death threats, and the routine use of the law to criminalise journalists. The impact of this crackdown on press freedom and the ability of journalists to do their job effectively is devastating.”
The mission enquired on the working conditions of journalists which revealed that they were paid below the minimum wage while some were not paid at all. Most do not have social security, and collective agreements, even when negotiated and agreed, are not implemented. This has resulted in creeping corruption and widespread partisan journalism, manipulated by unscrupulous politicians.
Problems facing the media have been exacerbated in the run-up to the elections, by the campaign by government officials to quash any action that may cast a shadow on the country’s public image, by the government’s intolerance of any independent and critical reporting on their management of public affairs, by the lack of professional journalism as well as the widespread poor working conditions in the media sector, the report says.
The mission also showed solidarity with the family of Bibi Ngota, the Editor of the bimonthly Cameroon Express, who died at Yaoundé prison last April for lack of medical care. The FAJ is backing the SNJC’s demand for a public and transparent inquiry to establish the truth in Bibi’s death, independent of the Executive and the judiciary.
The report makes a set of recommendations to the Government of Cameroon, for Cameroonian Journalists, for the Global Journalists’ Community and for the International Community. Among the recommendations addressed to the government, the mission calls for an end of the attacks on journalists and news media organisations and a strong and explicit political commitment to press freedom; the dropping of all the ongoing trials and charges against journalists and the release arrested journalists immediately and unconditionally, the decriminalisation of all media offenses and the scrapping of all laws and decrees/rules curtailing media freedom and freedom of expression. They further call on the government to guarantee the independence of the judiciary system of the country that journalists and other ordinary citizens can have confidence in; and cooperate with the National Syndicate of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC), media owners and other media NGOs to professionalise the media sector.
Click on the link below to download the full report.
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The FAJ represents over 50,000 journalists in 36 countries in Africa