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Press Freedom under Threat in Cameroon as 11 Media Outlets Closed
Freedom House is alarmed by the closure of 11 media outlets in Cameroon on September 6. To justify the closings, the National Communications Council accused seven newspapers, three radio stations, and one television station of disrespecting “ethics and professional norms.” The shutdown demonstrates Cameroon’s waning support for free and independent media sources, despite such guarantees laid out in its 1996 Constitution, and Freedom House condemns this clear violation of press freedom.
Restrictions on freedom of expression are not new to Cameroon. Many media outlets in Cameroon are biased in favor of the ruling People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party, headed by President Paul Biya since 1982. Opposition reporting is repeatedly stifled by requiring a cumbersome licensing process, forcing journalists to reveal their sources, detainment and harassment of journalists, and limiting access to government information. The indefinite shutdown without due process of an independent radio station, Foundation Radio, by the Cameroonian Minister of Communications in April for discussion the sensitive political topic of secessionism, is a recent example. Further, the arrest and harassment of journalist Raphaël Nkamtchuen of La Boussole in March 2011, and the assault against journalist Ulrich Fabien Ateba Biwole of Le Jour in September 2011, demonstrate the decline. Furthermore, in the lead up to legislative elections on September 30 – which have been pushed back from July 2012—there have been reports of harassment of journalists, restrictions of the right to assemble, voter intimidation, and other election irregularities.
This environment of fear created in Cameroon hampers the media’s ability to freely operate, and leads to widespread self-censorship. As legislative elections approach, it is crucial to empower, rather than further limit, freedom of expression and freedom of the press to foster a well-informed and engaged citizenry.
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