The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Cameroon to lift its ban on the radio and television stations of Equinoxe group, which has covered the opposition to plans to amend the Constitution in order to extend the rule of Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya.
“This is a sneaky attempt to silence the media in the ongoing debate on the constitutional amendment,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the Minister of Communication to lift immediately the ban on the Equinoxe TV and Radio and to make sure media can work in total independence.”
On Thursday, February 21, the Minister of Communication Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam ordered the closure of Equinoxe TV, based in the economic capital Douala, for failing to pay its 100 million Francs CFA (150,000 Euros) operation fee. The next day the government shut down Equinoxe Radio without any notification, the station’s management said. The radio and the TV station’s offices have been sealed by police officer who ordered the workers to leave the buildings.
According to local sources, most of the stations have an informal agreement with the government to pay their fees. The government has also worked out payment programs with other broadcasters who are still on the air.
The decision to shut down Equinoxe is reportedly linked to the coverage of the ongoing political debate around a constitutional amendment which would enable President Biya to run for another term in 2011. Earlier this month, Equinoxe TV broadcasted an interview with John Fru Ndi, leader of the main opposition party, who criticized the President’s move. The station also aired footage of security forces beating opposition supporters during a demonstration against the amendment.
The IFJ fears media repression will increase now that political tensions have become violent.
The IFJ backs the call of its affiliate, the Cameroon Journalists' Trade Union, for a national consultation with the media community to face the “series of provocation acts that media and the journalists are and will experience.”
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries