By Christopher Ambe
In what looks like a return to censorship, the critical talk show programme of the Southwest Regional Station of state-owned Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV),Buea ,rated by listeners as the best programme of the station, has ,surprisingly, been banned.
Although it is the station manager David Chuye Bunyui, who signed the banning order, it is believed that Southwest Governor Bernard Okaka Bilai, must have influenced the ban because of growing criticisms of the latter’s administration by the panelists of the club.
In his banning order, Station Manager David Chuye Bunyui, failed to state the reason for the ban, which has been widely condemned by advocates of press freedom.
“We cannot be moving forward and backward with the fight for a free press in Cameroon”, remarked one angry listener, who learned of the ban. “There is no doubt that what animates democracy in any country is a free press.”
An official of CRTV Buea who preferred not to be named and who is totally against the ban by his boss told The Recorder that even the National Communication Council (NCC) would not have banned a popular programme as press club without a warning to the accused.
The ban, styled as Note of Service and dated July 22, 2014, simply reads, “The program “Press Club” broadcast on the regional radio station from 8-9 AM is henceforth suspended from the air till further notice. The head of the regional station is charged with the implementation of this notice”
Contacted by The Recorder in his office to find out why Press Club was banned, Mr. Chuye Bunyui claimed that “the manner in which the July 12 edition of the programme was done was most unprofessional” but refused to grant a full interview
He said one of the two guests-who are both legal experts- on the programme that day used insulting language to refer to some local administrators, allegedly implicated in what is today known as Fako land –grabbing. The guests were Ikome Ngongi,a retired UN legal consultant and Fako elite, and Tambe Tiku Christopher, a University of Buea law don and Southwest regional coordinator of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms.
The ban has come amid complaints of anonymous death threats by journalists of the different media houses who constitute panelists of “Press Club”. The journalists reported the death threats following their dissection, on air, of certain sensitive matters of public interest such as illegal land acquisition in Fako by some administrative officers, who by law are not supposed to own land where they administer.
The Recorder gathered that after the July 12 edition of Press Club,in which the Southwest Governor Bernard Okala Bilai,was cited as an alleged land grabber, he angrily invited the station manager of CRTV Buea and seriously warned him about the critical nature of the programme which he (the governor) thought was causing hatred or dislike of some people from other parts of the country who have acquired landed property in Fako.
It is believed that the governor must have pressured Mr.Chuye Bunyui to submission, to suspend the programme, even if the station manager would not disclose it.
Panelists of Press Club are Editor Christopher Ambe of The Recorder Newspaper, Ayang Mc Donald of Eden Newspaper, Dr.Ernest Molua of The Entrepreneur Online, Nana Walter Wilson and Editor Bouddih Adams of The Post Newspaper, and Senior Journalist Matute Menyoli of CRTV Buea who is the current presenter/moderator of Press Club.
Apart from Matute Menyoli, the rest of the panelists are all from the independent media
Until the July 22 ban,the programme, which was launched in April 2006, had been running for over eight (8) years uninterrupted despite its critical content, which has been helping defaulting workers of both the public and private sectors sit-up.
Senior CRTV Journalist Sam Bokuba who conceived Press Club and served as pioneer moderator/presenter said the programme was born out of the desire to provide wider leverage to media professionals “to make informed comments and analysis on news events”
Worthy of note is the fact that, Press Club’s edition of September 19, 2006 on speculative reporting, got shortlisted for the finals of the 2007 BBC Excellence Radio Awards and the programme has received an award from the Cameroon Association of English-speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) for its significant contributions to nation-building.
Shocking revelations made on Press Club on the illicit acquisition, by some local administrators, of land ceded by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CD) to indigenous communities in Fako, caused the Government of Cameroon to set a commission of inquiry, whose findings are yet to be made public. Investigation into the alleged land grabbing has left those implicated panicking, and they are believed to be the ones covertly threatening the lives of the panelists.
So serious is the matter of land grabbing in Fako Division that, the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure,Mrs.Jacqueline Koung A Bessike,has, in a circular dated July 18,2014 and addressed to the Governor of the Southwest Region, the Senior Divisional Officer(SDO) for Fako among others, stopped any further land surrender in Fako by CDC ,pending the findings of investigations.
President Biya’s war against corrupt practices has already sent many high-level government ofcials to prison.