Cameroon: Journalists shun the National Communication Council

Professionals believe that the creation of a self-regulatory body is essential to put an end to the inconsistencies observed in the management of the official body.

The Elite Club program broadcast every Sunday on the private channel Vision 4 was presented this Sunday, August 7 by Bruno Bidjang. This employee has been suspended for ten days by the National Council of Communication (Cnc) for undermining the ethics and deontology of journalism. Three other journalists from this channel, considered to be co-presenters of the program Tour d'Horizon, calmly went about their business throughout the week which has just passed, even though they were suspended for periods of one two months by the regulatory body. Several other presenters like Sismondi Barlev Bitjoka, promoter of a private radio broadcasting in the political capital, have decided to ignore the suspensions imposed on them on July 29 by the Cnc. This is not the first time that journalists from Vision 4 and those from other media have ignored his sanctions. A news that revives the debate in the corporation of journalists on the role of this body in media regulation in Cameroon.

Edmond Kamguia, journalist and consultant to the Equinoxe Tv group, believes for his part that this refusal of certain journalists to respect the decisions of the Cnc testifies that the regulation of the media in Cameroon is doing very badly. The journalist specifies that it is time that the state authorities understand that the State has no role to play in regulating the press in Cameroon. The CNC must be replaced by an independent body run by journalists. “Journalists must be able to agree to set up a jurisdiction of peers which must be self-regulating,” underlines Edmond Kamguia.

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Xavier Messe, journalist, considers that the non-respect of the decisions taken by the Cnc is justified by the fact that there is no decree which gives police powers to this regulatory body: "The Head of State must give police power to the Cnc. This power must be contained in a decree. As we see things happening, we don't get the impression that the state is deliberately not giving power to anyone by diminishing the authority of the Cnc. A sanctioned journalist should submit to the decisions taken by this body or go to court for an appeal”.
Xavier Messe believes that in addition to a regulatory body with full power, the State must also work for the creation of an independent body managed by journalists to carry out self-regulation. This self-regulatory body that he proposes will have to take care of allocating professional cards to journalists.

Respect the right to information

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, a human rights activist, thinks that the non-respect of the decisions of the Cnc by certain press organs proves that this body has a hidden agenda other than to regulate the profession. It justifies its argument by the fact that, generally, the persons in charge of this body sometimes request the intervention of the administrative authorities for the application of the decisions taken. This was the case recently with the suspension of the CEO of Equinoxe and the editor of this TV channel. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe believes that the authorities were ready to close Equinoxe if the suspensions taken had not been respected. But she says she is surprised by the silence of the authorities concerning these journalists who refuse to apply the sanctions of the Cnc. The human rights activist believes that the Cnc today constitutes an obstacle for the right to information. The creation of the Cnc violates principle 17 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights which states: "The public authority responsible for exercising powers in the infrastructure of broadcasting, telecommunications or the Internet, is independent and sufficiently protected against interference of a political, commercial or other nature”.
Alain Denis Mbezele, communication manager of the Cnc does not wish to react to this news linked to the non-respect of the decisions of the regulatory body by certain journalists.

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Advocacy for the creation of an independent self-regulatory body is of concern to NGOs such as Journalists in Africa for Development (Jade), which brought together several journalists in Douala two months ago. During this grouping, an association responsible for issuing its opinion on questions of ethics and professional conduct was set up. The Media Network for the Promotion of Press Freedom (Rmplp) was launched for a period of 99 years. The very first coordination committee was set up during the Constituent General Assembly held in Douala on June 24, 2022. The management team is made up of representatives from several media outlets. The coordination committee is assisted by a technical secretariat provided by the Jade agency (Journalist in Africa for Development). The Cameroon Journalists' Union (Snjc) is also advocating for the creation of a self-regulatory body.

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