Cameroon | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Cameroon

Cameroon

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

65

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

24

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

22

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but this right is not respected by the government. Criminal libel laws are widely invoked by the authorities to silence critics of President Paul Biya's regime. In lawsuits brought against the press, the courts usually side with the plaintiffs, sometimes in violation of due process. 2005 witnessed numerous court cases in which this took place, including the case of the publisher and reporter for the weekly L'Oeil du Sahel who were sentenced to five months in prison and steep fines for criminal defamation of a military officer. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, army officers had brought at least 12 court cases against L'Oeil du Sahel during the course of the year, threatening its financial survival.

Cameroonian journalists are forced to work in an adverse and unpredictable political environment, and repression of the media remains a serious problem. Police and army officials settled scores with journalists outside the court system, resorting to intimidation or violence, and as a result journalists often practice self-censorship. Nonetheless, local journalists have observed that overt government-sponsored harassment is beginning to decrease as officials realize the negative attention such action can attract from the international community.

Cameroon has a lively private and independent press, with at least 20 private newspapers publishing on a regular basis and 3 publishing daily, each portraying diverse views and criticism of the government. The broadcast sector also has at least 20 privately owned radio stations; however, the government has yet to grant formal licenses to private radio stations, making them vulnerable to arbitrary closures. Press freedom groups have accused the authorities of taking advantage of this state of affairs to influence the editorial freedom of the broadcast media. The government itself owns one daily newspaper, the Cameroon Tribune, and exercises tight editorial control over the state-run broadcast media, which consistently portray official policies in a positive light. Another serious obstacle to press freedom is the pervasiveness of corruption, among both officials and journalists themselves; for example, journalists often receive bribes from government officials to attend press conferences. Dependence on these bribes is reinforced by media owners, who often do not pay employees sufficiently in the belief that the government officials they cover will provide payment. Press freedom on the internet is markedly better than in either the print or broadcast media. Half a dozen private internet service providers are able to operate regularly without government interference, although given the level of poverty and lack of infrastructure, less than 1 percent of the population has access to the internet.