IFJ Calls on Cameroon’s Government to End Wave of Media Repression

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Cameroon to end a media crackdown that has lead to threats and detention of journalists as authorities try to silence journalists covering social unrest in the country.

“Independent media are being targeted because the Cameroonian government does not want journalists reporting on the current social crisis, the debates over revising the constitution or protests against the high cost of living,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “But the people of Cameroon have the right to know about these things and the government must let our colleagues do their work. Authorities must put an end to threats against media and released the journalists who have been detained.”

This week, Jean Marc Soboth, First National Secretary of Cameroon Journalists' Trade Union, has received threats from security forces after he made statements condemning the attacks on journalists.

On March 3, Jacques Blaise Mvié, director of La Nouvelle Presse newspaper was detained in Yaoundé by the army. His detention came after his newspaper published an article in its February 27 issue that accused the Minister of Defence of masterminding the “coup attempt” that led to many arrests among high-ranking officers in the Cameroon armed forces. He is still being held.

On February 27, Eric Golf Kouatchou, cameraman at Canal 2 International, was arrested by security forces as he was going to cover demonstrations in Bonanjo, about 10 km from Douala. His equipment was confiscated and he and a group of 36 young men were mistreated by the arresting officers. He was later released.

The same day, David Nouwou, La Nouvelle Expression news editor, and Patient Ebwele, correspondent of Le Jour, were brutalised by security forces in Douala, while covering demonstrations. The security forces also seized their equipment. Polycarpe Essomba, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale in Douala, was forced to go into hiding due to the threats he and his family received during the crisis.

The government has also started shutting down critical broadcasters.

On February 21, the government ordered the closure of Equinoxe TV; the next day Equinoxe Radio was also shut down. The decision to shut down Equinoxe Radio and TV was reportedly linked to their coverage of the ongoing political debate around a constitutional amendment which would enable President Biya to run for another term in 2011.

On February 28, security forces invaded radio Magic FM and destroyed the station’s equipment. This came two days after the Minister of

Communication summoned station officials to his office after they broadcast commentary on the constitution revision and covered the violent demonstrations.

The IFJ, in solidarity with its colleagues and the Cameroon Journalists' Trade Union, is calling on the government to release without condition Jacques Blaise Mvié, to lift the ban on Equinoxe radio and TV and Magic Fm and to end all threats against journalists and media staff covering the constitutional discourse and protests.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries