The press as a target

EDITORIAL 14 Nov 2018
The press as a target

The recent arrest and detention of the Editor-in-Chief of the English news desk of Equinoxe Television, Mimi Mefo Takambou, is not so much a surprise to many who have been following events in the country, as it only further weakens our claim to be a country that fully respects the norms of democracy.
And as a country which arrogates unto itself the pride of being an “advanced democracy” as the case of Mimi, is just another proof that journalists, particularly of the private press, are the little enemies of the regime and must be targeted and punished under laws that do not conform to the norms of democracy.
We want to commend the authorities, whoever it is that gave orders for her release especially on a Saturday. We urge the authorities to follow up with their gesture by asking the dropping of any charges against her and an instant discontinuance of the case. Like it or not, the Mimi affair has come to cast another serious dent on our country’s image.
We in this Newspaper consider it an aberration from these norms as well as the procedures that govern a free press. That, the journalist has become a very welcome client of military tribunals since the anti-terrorism law was adopted by parliament a few years back, is a challenge to our perception of the future of our country. By all considerations, the press has its place in the realm of society and deserves its pride of place in guaranteeing the equation necessary to produce a balance in the entire governance process.
It would be recalled that when this anti-terrorism law was enacted a few years back, it did provoke serious debate on the grounds that it encroached on certain fundamental liberties which seriously eroded the freedom of the press and has only left on its track, the impression that the press no longer has the right to its own independent appraisal or judgement of issues, other than what the official version of any situation says.
That, media men and women should become scapegoats of an unpleasant law just because they made mention of the errors and unscrupulous misdeeds of some government officials is indeed unfortunate. According to a statement issued by the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Mimi has been charged with the dissemination of false news, insults against constituted bodies and civil servants. She has also been charged with inciting revolt against the government and institutions of the republic.
The truth is that all these are borne in the infamous and obnoxious anti-terrorism law which only reduces the ordinary citizen to a being that has no opportunity to exercise his inalienable rights, the journalist inclusive. If this country now seems grounded even on our cruise towards emergence, it is because of the corruption that has been institutionalised by civil servants and has become our way of life.
Will the press be seen to be doing a disservice to this nation by continuing to drum up the misdeeds of public servants? Or must we continue to remind Cameroonians about the number of times that the head of state himself has cried out loudly enough, about corruption and inertia being his major worries in the governance system? Or can anyone deny the fact that the Cameroonian civil servants are counted among the richest in a country were the minimum wage is pegged at FCFA 36,000? Has anyone mustered the courage of asking them how they got there, other than through corruption?
So must the press play along with these scruples just because we must allow corruption to remain our way of life? Certainly the answer is NO. Looking even at what Tchiroma has described as constituted bodies which he claims the journalist, Mimi, has insulted, have some of them performed above the standards of being criticised? After the head of state’s inaugural speech in which he stressed that the goal for achieving emergence must become a national course, rallying all our fellow citizens in order to transform Cameroon into a modern and socially advanced country, one would expect that we must fall back from such deeds that would thwart true reasoning and destroy our faith in our version of the rule of law.
We strongly believe that ordinary Cameroonians have passed the stage where they cannot best judge or appraise issues and act on the strength of their own judgements than only wait to be incited by a journalist’s story. If therefore we must consolidate our democracy, let us live and let’s live by shunning overzealousness.
It is in this spirit that we call for a stop in the wanton arrests of journalists and their trial in marshal courts. We certainly have too much in our hands that we think the more serious issues should be tackled. Certainly with the Anglophone problem still unsolved, we are still entangled in the web.

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