Journalists in Bamenda, headquarters of the conflict-ridden North West Region of Cameroon, continue to face threats and attacks six years into the Anglophone Crisis.
Amid the turmoil, their commitment to informing the public is met with perilous risks, leaving a trail of fear.
In Bamenda, journalists are enduring a harrowing reality.
They face abductions, harassment, intimidation, attacks, and even death as they endeavour to report the truth.
Muma Jude, now the Station manager of Radio Hot Cocoa, recounts the chilling threats received from conflict actors who are coercing silence on specific subjects.
“There are several instances where unknown individuals have warned me not to cover State events, under the threat of death,” Muma told journalists during his recent installation as Station Manager.
“In such circumstances,” he added, “safety becomes paramount.”
The armed conflict has also dwindled news sources and heightened insecurity among reporters.
Amid these challenges, journalists grapple with an additional challenge – press censorship.
Radio Hot Cocoa itself faced suspension twice in 2020 and 2021, impeding the dissemination of factual information.
The Press Freedom Index, measuring the perils journalists face, showcases Cameroon’s decline to 138 out of 180 countries in 2023.
This marks it as one of Africa’s most hazardous places for journalists.
The working environment is marred by hostility and uncertainty, posing a constant threat to the courageous journalists who persist in their duty.
Muma Jude, also the Bamenda Chapter president of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ), advocates for resilience amid these daunting circumstances.
With 17 years of experience as a journalist before assuming the role of Station Manager, he remains an unwavering voice for press freedom and the right to information.
Journalists in Bamenda have firmly condemned past attacks against their colleagues.
The most recent was the killing of Bamenda-based sports reporter, Anye Nde Nsoh.
Separatists shot and killed him on May 8 this year, making him the second journalist to have been killed in Bamenda because of the armed conflict.
The toll of this protracted conflict is staggering – over 6,000 dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and countless lives and careers shattered.
Journalists, committed to shedding light on the truth, find themselves increasingly in the crosshairs of danger.
Since the 2017 escalation of the teachers’ and lawyers’ protests, the list of victims from the journalistic fraternity continues growing.
Four journalists – Larry Uchenna, Fung John, Frederick Takang, and Ambe McMillan – have been kidnapped.
Meanwhile, Anye Nde Nsoh and Berky Jeme Iyabo lost their lives in the line of duty.
Many others, like Muma Jude, live under the ominous specter of death threats.
The situation is not different in the South West, one of the English-speaking Regions of Cameroon which is also witnessing the same armed conflict.
At least one journalist, Samuel Wazizi – has died in connection with the conflict.
Other reporters, like CRTV’s Fame Bunyui Fakeh and Radio Bonakanda’s Mary Namondo have suffered kidnapping from separatists.
Meanwhile, others, like The Post’s former Desk Editor, Abah Isidore, have faced threats from the government for their reporting on the crisis.
However, the media landscape in the North West Region bears the scars of violence.
Radio stations have been vandalised, and some have been forced into closure. On the other hand, journalists like Kiven have not only been displaced but coerced to abandon their journalistic pursuits.
As the conflict persists, the dangers for journalists in these regions remain alarmingly high.
Yet, the commitment to truth-telling and informing the public stands resolute, an unwavering beacon in the midst of chaos.
Mimi Mefo Info