For over four months, the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) Africa and the Cameroon Branch have been closely following the media situation in Cameroon with grave concern following the Cameroon Common Law Lawyers and Anglophone Teachers’ Associations on agitations sit-in strikes to press for inherited cultural, legal and education demands. The strike that unfortunately saw Students of the University of Buea caught in the web with many of them tortured, maimed, and wounded in November 2016 has painted Cameroon in very strange colours.
Given the seriousness of the strike, it was incumbent on Journalists to take up their tools of the trade and keep their numerous readers abreast of the happenings in Cameroon. Along the line, they have performed excellently in the application of the canons of responsible journalism by keeping the debate alive for solutions to be found by those parading the marble corridors of power in Yaounde.
The Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary who doubles as Government Spokesman has been on a routine beat, giving the government’s side of the story to suit the whims and caprices of the regime. The coverage of what has become the Anglophone Problem has not gone unnoticed by the media watchdog, the National Communication Council in Cameroon, as it has openly issued stern warnings to journalists not to inflame the happenings in the two Anglophone Regions of the South West and North West.
Be that as it may, it is the intrinsic right of the journalist to carry out his or her exacting task based on facts and truth without blemish. They have a right to inform Cameroonians of the unfortunate calamities in the two English-speaking Regions of Cameroon where protesters were brutally murdered by trigger happy and gun totting security operatives for burning down private and State property in retaliation of premature deaths from smoking guns.
In all of these happenings, no Journalist has ever been arrested in street protests, not even one. But from our findings, a number of them are gnashing their teeth at the Kondengui Maximum Prison in pretrial detentions on various allegations. CJA is concerned about long detentions without trial, and the urgent need for their Legal representatives to defend them in Court. Some of them are reportedly being detained under very harsh and unacceptable conditions. CJA-Cameroon and the Africa Bureau demand the unconditional release or speedy trial of the arrested Journalists because justice delayed is justice denied. Incarcerating them incommunicado does not speak well of a nation that preaches democratic values.
We are worried by the continuous detention of the following:
1) Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, Political Editor of The Sun newspaper arrested in Buea on February 9, 2017
2) Tim Finnian, Publisher/Editor of Life Time newspaper arrested in Bamenda on January 27, 2017,
3) Amos Fofung, Buea-based South West and Littoral Bureau Chief of The Guardian Post newspaper arrested in Buea on February 9, 2017
4) Thomas Awah Junior, the Publisher of the monthly newspaper Aghem Messenger Magazine arrested in Bamenda on January 2, 2017
5) Hans Achumba, a Journalist with the Jakiri Community Radio in Bui Division, North West Region was arrested in Jakiri ,
6).Ndong Morfaw, Publisher of a Bamenda based newspaper Voice of the Voiceless was arrested in Buea for carrying SCNC tracts from Bamenda to Buea.
7). Jules Peeters Agha-ah, a reporter with Life Time magazine crossed the border as soon as his Editor was arrested, Tim told CJA-Africa hours after his arrest. Only one of the seven Journalists, Ndong has pleaded for leniency as he was caught pants down with SCNC tracts, thereby exonerating Atia and Fofung from blame. Can a man who commits a crime that is not mortal, not be granted clemency when he accepts guilt and ask for forgiveness?
CJA-Africa urges the Head of State Paul Biya to exercise restraint by forgiving all the Journalists in detention, in the spirit of dialogue and reconciliation for all those who might have been hurt during the upheavals that provoked the Anglophone problem.
As the World looks forward to celebrating the World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday May 3, 2017, CJA-Africa recommends a more inclusive and responsible press to guarantee freedom of expression.
Peace is the best way recommended by the Lord Almighty.
Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul,
President, CJA-Cameroon, Vice President of CJA-Africa Bureau