By Christopher Ambe
|Bishop Ateba,President of NCC,addressing the Buea press conference|
The National Communication Council (NCC), following its reorganization by a presidential decree of January 23, 2012, is now both a regulatory and consultative body, intended to ensure professional and responsible mass communication, media practitioners in the Southwest Region have been told by the NCC President, Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba
Before its reorganization, the NCC was merely an advisory body.
The NCC president, who was on an awareness campaign after the body was restructured, told a press conference at Chariot Hotel Buea, June 19, that the NCC should not be perceived as a punitive body. Bishop Ateba was accompanied during the Buea trip by other NCC officials including his vice Mr.Peter Esoka, a veteran Journalist
Bishop Ateba’s call on media practitioners not to consider the NCC merely as punitive body came shortly after the body slammed sanctions on some media houses and practitioners for unprofessional and unethical practices, causing fear within the Cameroonian media community that the body was now out to muzzle the press.
“The NCC is responsible for ensuring the promotion of press freedom and the viability of media organs, including the protection of peace and good social order in the media,” the NCC president told the press conference, which was attended by students and lecturers of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC), journalists of both the independent and public media, media executives and publishers.
According to Bishop Ateba,the NCC,through its decisions and opinions, ensures the respect of: laws and regulations on social communication; ethics and professional norms; social peace, unity and national integration in all media; the promotion of national languages and cultures in all media; promoting the ideals of peace, democracy and human rights; the protection of the dignity of people, including children and youth in the media; the equal access to the media, especially during election periods; freedom and responsibility of the media; the independence of public and private communication services;transaparency,pluralism and equity in the programmes of communication enterprises.
The NCC, which receives complaints and petitions for review before deciding, “can neverthe less, depending on the case, call the parties for hearing and further information, or even create an ad hoc committee to investigate individual cases”, Bishop Ateba said, adding that such an adhoc commission makes proposals that are brought forward for all members to decide.
He disclosed that the NCC since the installation of its members last March 6 reviewed over sixty complaints on various cases of violations of professional ethics.
The NCC, the President noted, can give warnings or impose sanctions against public and private operators, as well as professionals in the field of social. These sanctions range from temporary suspension to permanent ban of activities, he said.
Concluding his introductory remarks before a question-and –answer session followed, the NCC president stressed: “Respect of professional ethics in the contemporary context of globalization and democracy is essential, given that in its posture as recorder of the past, witness of the present and guide of the future, the communicator, better than a common agitator, should be an ideal social actor, led by the main ambition to know and to be useful, in a serene approach, inspired by the triptych principle of freedom, truth and responsibility”
During the question-and answer session, journalists bombarded the Man of God cum communicator, with biting questions and received in return honest answers.
On the issue of state-owned companies and institutions not placing adverts in the independent media, the NCC boss said the body would make recommendations to the Government to help empower the private media by advertising there.
On the ambiguous definition of who is a journalist in Cameroon, the NCC President said that, the Cameroon definition of journalist is guided by the UNESCO definition. But he added that the last National Communication Forum resolutions, agreed on a new definition of a journalist, pending endorsement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Concerning charlatanism, Bishop Ateba strongly advised those passing for journalists who are not credentialed should better get trained or be flushed out, and that proprietors of media organs should provide improved working conditions for their personnel.
At the end of the conference, several journalists expressed satisfaction with their improved understanding of what the restructured NCC is all about.
(First published in The Recorder Newspaper,Cameroon,of July 1,2013)