Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cameroon:Communication Council Shuts Down Media Houses for Unprofessionalism

By Christopher Ambe
    The National Communication Council (NCC), has closed down 11 media organs (7 newspapers, 1 television and 3 radio stations), citing disrespect for ethics and professional norms. It also suspended a journalist and two publishers
   The NCC is both a regulatory and consultative body, intended to ensure professional and responsible mass communication in Cameroon
   But the suspension of these media organs has been interpreted by some journalists as a move by the government to muzzle the independent media ahead of the September 30 twin elections. While others see it a corrective measure for defaulting media practitioners and proprietors.
  Ngah Christian Mpipgo, publisher of the Guardian Post - one of the suspended newspapers told The Recorder that he believes the Government is only using the NCC to gag the press. He claimed that the NCC did not give him any prior warning and failed to invite him for any explanation before slamming a suspension on the bi-weekly.
“I see the NCC as an arm of the government out to prevent critical media organs such as The Guardian Post from covering the coming twin elections”, said Mr. Ngah, whose newspaper has been suspended for two months.
“We  did  not receive a warning and we were not even invited to defend ourselves”, he told The Recorder on phone Saturday Morning
It be would recalled that the NCC president Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba was recently  on an awareness campaign to inform media practitioners on what  his council is required to do.
   Simon Lyonga, president of the Yaounde chapter of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, is quoted by a VOA report as saying the journalism profession in Cameroon is quack-infected.
 “We are in a profession where anybody comes in; they usually do not know the ethics of the profession and so go against it.  So I think if somebody is sanctioned for not respecting the ethics of the profession, to me [that] is not press censorship,” said Lyonga.
   According to the VOA report, some media outlets in Cameroon have published articles warning of alleged actions by the government to rig upcoming municipal and council elections in favor of the ruling party, Cameroon People's Democratic Movement.
   Kilian Ngalla, a journalist who has been closely observing these developments, told The VOA that the closure of the media outfits could be interpreted as an initiative to silence critical voices.
"At a time elections are coming, it is curious that the government chooses this time to start banning press organs.  When you look at the composition of the National Communication Council, the president there is appointed by the president of the republic. And that director is executing the opinion of the head of state.  I think they are actually gagging the press," he said.
During Bishop Ateba’s recent sensitization tour he advised that media practitioners should not consider the NCC merely as punitive body.
 "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 had said.
   Bishop Ateba had it made known that the NCC, which receives complaints and petitions for review before deciding, "can never the less, depending on the case, call the parties for hearing and further information, or even create an adhoc committee to investigate individual case; that the NCC can give warnings or impose sanctions against public and private operators, as well as professionals in the field.
   The media organs suspended include: Chronicle Newspaper (for three months); The Guardian Post Newspaper (two months), Sky One Radio (for three month) and L’Epervier(for one month)
 ( NB:First published in The Recorder Newspaper, Cameroon, of September 9, 2013)

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