By Andrew Nsoseka & Didier Vernyuy Yangeh
African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), working in collaboration with ADISI Cameroon, have unveiled a Press Freedom report on Cameroon, for 2017, 2018, and 2019, a period during which it says incidents of violations against journalists were recorded, especially those pertaining to the freedom of expression and access to information.
The report notes that the violations they recorded were carried out by “law enforcement agents for various reasons, the main motive being political”.
Going by the report, the right to freedom of expression and its corollary access to information is guaranteed in the national Constitution of Cameroon but not implemented as journalists have been arrested, intimidated or threatened by State and non-state actors in the country.
The recently released report disclosed that more than 15 journalists in Cameroon have been arrested, intimidated or threatened by State and non-state actors in the country. Talking about the situation of Journalists in the crisis-hit Northwest and Southwest regions, the report said, journalists covering the crisis have but been attacked by both State and non-state armed men.
The report stated amongst other things, that journalists “continue to live in fear. They are also frequently threatened and intimidated by local and even national authorities, sometimes having programmes run by their media outlets suspended. These violations against journalists threaten their independence or force them to toe the line of government and public officials. The violations against press freedom also extend to the online space…”
The report chronicled that the Anglophone crisis, which began in late 2016, has resulted in serious human rights abuses in the Region including prolonged network disruptions, arbitrary arrests, and detention of journalists and dissidents as well as widespread killings.
In its report, AFEX and ADISI listed that during this period, they observed incidents of physical and verbal violations against journalists recorded, amongst which are; “numerous arrests of journalists working with private media houses because of their publications and the linked implications of loss on the earnings for the newspaper or media house; Many citizens deprived of information; Many journalists having their work equipment confiscated by the Security Forces; Reports of journalists being internally displaced because of the threats they face; Many journalists exiled because of the threats they face; Acts of surveillance of journalists and other media workers by the Cameroonian government”.
Talking about a situation which is peculiar to journalists in the crisis plagued Anglophone regions, the report noted that its published findings are not exhaustive, “This report of incidents of attacks against journalists in Cameroon is not exhaustive because, several journalists especially in the two English-speaking regions, suffer in silence following the crisis which has plagued the region since 2016. Many journalists have been forced to flee the region in order to seek refuge elsewhere on the continent and beyond. Some have also been subjected to constant blackmail by the local government…”
Talking about targeted punishment of some particular media establishments, the report outlined that “the repression by the government has targeted certain newspapers and journalists who have been critical of the regime while favouring those that toe the line of the regime. It is important to remember to decry that the media in Cameroon do not have as their tutelage the Minister of Territorial Administration who only issues permissions for the written press, all dependent on the Ministry of Communication. Many journalists complain about the Minister’s terror when they do not handle information the way he wants. Many of them testify that they have been reprimanded on the phone by this minister”.
In the report, individual and group cases have been analysed, pointing out how particular people, news organs and journalism groups have had their rights trampled on by the administration. The report notes that of the victims of the violation, 23percent are female, while 77percent are male.