Cameroon’s National Communication Council, NCC, has left a majority of citizens in shock following a release it issued today announcing a one-month suspension on the President Director General, PDG of Douala-based Equinoxe TV, Severin Tchounkeu and the media organ’s Editor-In-Chief, Cedric Noufele.
The announcement added that the right to reply of the sanctioned too, had been withheld too.
Many have authoritatively inferred and rightly so that, the sanctions from the NCC have been forced by some persons in government.
The NCC , it has been said, has been just as a smokescreen by the government to gag the press and settle scores with Equinoxe in particular the remains Cameroon’s most influential media organ.
This has been because, its objective and quality report on burning social issues have always left the government jittery
When the sanctions from the NCC were read during CRTV’s 1pm news on this April 1st, Many at first thought it was meant to be one of many jokes that often characterize April fool’s Day. Their worst fears were however confirmed, it was not a prank. Government just relaunch a new attack on press freedom.
On March 21, 2022, government attacked Equinoxe TV for its coverage of the plight of striking teachers across the country. The teachers by then, had been on strike for a month, asking that their grievances be addressed. These included the payment of owed salaries, increments, the automation of advancements, the integration of some and other concerns.
Cedric Noufele received some of the stakeholders on the popular Sunday programme ‘Droit de Reponse’ . This gave the teachers an opportunity to better explain some of these grievances to aid public understanding of their sufferings.
Days after, the Governor of the Littoral Region, Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua, sent a warning letter to the management of Equinoxe. In ton with government’ s persistent attack on the media organ, the Ivaha Diboua-signed note accused Equinoxe of inciting citizens to protest.
However, the leading TV station’s General Manager, Severin Tchounkeu read a deeper meaning in the warning. He had said without mincing words that the letter was written at the level of the Ministry of Territorial Administration in Yaounde and forced through the governor to Equinoxe.
Séverin Tchounkeu in a rare outing pointed out the fact that he was the main brain behind the warning served Equinoxe TV. The governor, Samuel Ivaha, he said, was merely being used as a puppet to wage war against the media.
The role of Minister Paul Atanga Nji
For years now, the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji has been the face of government’s repressive hand on all sectors of society. He is on record as having repeatedly issued threats on Equinoxe TV. From his fight with civil society to humanitarian aid agencies, opposition political parties and more, Atanga Nji has remained ruthless, enforcing government’s heavy hand.
Séverin Tchounkeu in a rare outing pointed out the fact that the Minister was the main brain behind the warning served Equinoxe TV.
The governor, Samuel Ivaha, he said, was merely being ‘puppeted’ and used as a front to wage war against the media.
Sanctions as gov’t’s fresh move to gag the press
The latest suspension slammed on Equinoxe TV is one of many hurdles in its path to serving Cameroonians. Over the years, the media house and its reporters have been gagged in many ways in an attempt to silence their critical and incisive reporting.
In 2008, the media house was sanctioned for reporting on the nationwide strike action.In a similar move, it was between 2017 and 2018 banned from reporting on the armed conflict in the North West and South West regions which continues to rage on till date.
The war has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless and displaced.
Most recently, in 2018, one of the TV station’s editors, Mimi Mefo was targeted, arrested and detained for reporting extensively on the armed conflict in the English-speaking regions. She was only released following a major outcry by civil society and the international community.
Equinoxe attacked, more to follow
Equinoxe TV is not the only media organ reeling under the pain of government’s oppressive hand. Since the start of the war in the Anglophone regions, at least ten pressmen have been illegally arrested, detained, tortured and even killed. Among them is Samuel Wazizi. Tortured to death, his corpse remains to be seen till today.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, Human Rights Watch, HRW, the United Nations and many other international bodies have slammed government for its treatment of the press. But the Biya regime which has been repeatedly criticized for such attacks on the press has remained deaf.
The latest move on Equinoxe TV gives reason to believe many more media men and news organs will follow suite in usual fashion. The NCC, many have said and repeatedly so, is a toothless dog in the hands of the executive that uses it to achieve its mission of attacking the press anytime it so desires.
Sessions such as those held to announce today’s sanctions, authoritative sources have disclosed, were ordered and the nature of sanctions handed to the NCC even before the meeting. The media regularity organ is believed to have just clapped through the writings and sent it to the public.
(C) Mimi Mefo Info