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Cameroon’s Gov’t Stays Mute Despite Newspaper Publishers’ Strike

By E. Nadesh

Maybe the actions and words of the Newspaper Publishers in Cameroon have fallen on deaf ears because no reaction has come from the government concerning Publishers’ strike. Monday April 4, 2020 was observed by Newspaper media houses as a ‘dead press’ day in Cameroon as almost all the newspaper publication for the day carried the same message of their strike as the lone headline. The message read thus: “Newspapers on strike over non-payment of bills, Gov’t neglect of private media.”

From their message, it is evident that private newspaper houses are disgruntled with the unfair treatment meted on them by the Cameroon government. The very timely action was undertaken to commemorate the 27th edition of World Press Freedom Day which is celebrated every May 3. This year’s celebration was themed: “Journalism without Fear or Favour.”

Unlike other past editions which used to have lots of activities like workshops and award ceremonies, this year’s celebrations were more of online activities due to the social distancing measure to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In an extensive press Released signed by newspaper publishers in Cameroon, they advance reasons for their strike. This will be published at the end of this story.

However, amongst the many reasons and observations advanced as reasons for the strike, the arbitrary arrests of journalists in the exercise of their function is a major concern. A perfect example is the arrest of Chillen Music Television’s (CMTV) reporter, Samuel Wazizi on August 2, 2019 in Buea.

Accused of helping Separatist Fighters with his farm as camp, his colleagues and loved ones do not know of his whereabouts at now. Samuel Wazizi has not been appearing in court during his past trials, a situation which keeps concerned persons in doubt if he is still alive. This and many more have left Cameroonian journalists to assert that there is little or no press freedom in Cameroon.

Below is a copy of the Press Release signed by Newspaper Publishers in Cameroon.

PRESS RELEASE

Meeting in Yaoundé on April 28, 2020, newspapers publishers of Cameroon have resolved to observe a “dead press” day on the occasion of celebrations marking the 27th edition of the World Press Freedom Day to be celebrated this year under the theme “Journalism without fear no complacency”.

The decision to have a “dead press” on May 4, 2020 throughout the whole country is based on the following observations:

1- The refusal of the state to support the resilience of the private press faced with the COVID-19 pandemic;

2- The increased economic fragility of the press due to the restrictive measures taken by the state in the context of the fight against COVID-19;

3- The non-disbursement in time, of the institutional support of the state formerly called “aid to the press” to private media organs;

4- The accumulation of the payment of arrears for services rendered by the press at the public treasury;

5- The very limited access of private newspapers to public procurement with regards to ad inserts;

6- The increasing decrease of the amount for advertisement and the further unexplained extensions of payment dates for said advertisements by companies;

7- The poor sales of newspapers due to the difficulties encountered in distributing newspapers across the country;

8- An unsuitable tax policy for the press and the non-compliance with national and/or international conventions and agreements;

9-The non-implementation of the relevant recommendations of the 2012 general assembly meeting of communication, particularly the non-grooming of the law on social communication in Cameroon.

10-The arbitrary arrests of journalists in the exercise of their function and the maintenance of deprivation of liberty for press offences in contradiction to  the standards and international commitments of Cameroon.

On the basis of this, the publishers in Cameroon hold the national and international community as witnesses to the miseries inflicted on the private press.

Publishers reserve the right to undertake other energetic actions likely to restore the press to its role of information, education and the barometer of democracy.

Finally, the Publishers remain open to any proposal coming mainly from the government for the resolution of the various points raised.

Done in Yaoundé, on the 28th April 2020.

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