By DOH JAMES SONKEY IN YAOUNDE
Communication Minister who doubles as Government Spokesman, Issa Tchiroma Bakary has declared that “press freedom ends where threat to national unity begins.”
Speaking to the media on the eve of the commemoration of the 2017 edition of World Press Freedom Day, Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary stressed that national unity and social cohesion in Cameroon is not negotiable and the consequences on all those who go against it including even journalists are ugly.
The Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary first made this declaration at the dawn of a media offensive on Cameroon by Radio France International, RFI at the dawn of the incarceration of their Hausa correspondent in the Far North of the country, Ahmed Abba who after spending 635 days in detention was convicted by the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé after being found guilty of “non-denunciation of terrorism and laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts.” The court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and ordered him to make a payment of FCFA 55 million.
Talking about Ahmed Abba, Minister Tchiroma declared that “this journalist or pseudo-journalist is nothing more than an outgrowth of Boko Haram hiding behind the respectable facade of RFI to perpetrate his acts.”
The Communication boss used the occasion of World Press Freedom Day celebrated under the theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” to declare that the reality of press freedom in Cameroon is above the one in any other country.
Further stating that government does not interfere in the editorial policies of the more than 600 newspapers in the print media, at least 200 sound broadcasting stations, and more than 30 television channels, Issa Tchiroma explained that “In fact, we have never relent from reiterating that press freedom should not be a decontextualized freedom, but rather that which should absolutely be in keeping with the foundational values of our national community, those of peace, unity, inclusion, collective well-being, solidarity and living together.”
The Minister reassured that being aware of the fact that most media organs in the country are operating under deplorable conditions, the government is bent at increasing the amount given out as subsidy to the private press to at least FCFA 500 million as well as creating a special allocation account for the economic viability of privately-owned media.