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Cameroon: Corruption of journalists; the falsification of newspaper articles for the purpose of refugee claims

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 13 April 2012
Citation / Document Symbol CMR103998.FE
Related Document Cameroun : information sur la corruption des journalistes; information sur la falsification d'articles de journaux à des fins de demande d'asile
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cameroon: Corruption of journalists; the falsification of newspaper articles for the purpose of refugee claims, 13 April 2012, CMR103998.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f9e37342.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Background

Cited in a 19 February 2007 article by Agence France Presse (AFP), the president of the Union of Journalists of Cameroon (Syndicat des journalistes employés du Cameroun, SJEC) indicated that the press is one of [translation] "the most corrupt [sectors] in Cameroon" (AFP 19 Feb. 2010). In a 29 February 2012 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a journalist from the Quotidien Mutations in Yaoundé stated that some journalists [translation] "will to do anything" to ensure the operation of their businesses, including corrupting themselves. According to the SJEC president, journalists accept money and bribes to cover events and write articles (AFP 19 Feb. 2010). One of the sources that deal with the journalism industry in Africa is the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a German non-profit political foundation committed to the advancement of public policy issues in the spirit of the basic values of social democracy through education, research, and international cooperation (FES n.d.b). The African Media Barometer (AMB) is a project implemented by the FES to analyze the African media environment and serves as a practical lobbying tool for media reform (ibid. n.d.a). Moreover, the 2011 African Media Barometer on Cameroon indicates the following:

[FES English version]

An increasing number of reporters and publishers in Cameroon practice "investigative blackmail", whereby they dig up wrongdoings by public officials, approach the person(s) in question and inform them of the damaging investigative report they are about to publish. After tough negotiations the reporters then strike a deal with the interested party, which consists of "killing" the story in exchange for substantial pay (FES 2011, Sec. 4.7).

Additional information on this topic could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The journalist from the Quotidien Mutations stated that corruption touches the journalists in the public and private sectors, but that those in the public sector are [translation] "better paid" than those in the private sector (29 Feb. 2012). The African Media Barometer for Cameroon also indicated that corruption is [FES English version] "widespread" in Cameroon and that journalists in both the public and private media accept and demand travel costs for the interviews or news stories that they cover (FES 2011, Sec. 4.7). Global Integrity, an organization that offers expertise to public and private sectors in order to fight corruption (Global Integrity n.d.), indicates that corruption also touches public media, whose reporters "boldly demand" transportation costs from event organizers to write their reports (Global Integrity 2010).

2. Factors that Lead to the Corruption of Journalists

The journalist from the Quotidien Mutations explained how corruption has become an everyday occurrence in the life of journalists due to the precariousness of their living conditions (29 Feb. 2012). The African Media Barometer for Cameroon indicated that journalists' [FES English version] "[p]recarious working conditions are characterised by a lack of equipment, no means of transport, the absence of health insurance and even the lack of office space" (FES 2011, Sec. 4.8). According to the journalist from the Quotidien Mutations, corruption [translation] "allows poorly paid journalists to overcome life's challenges" (29 Feb. 2012).

An article published by the Mboa.info website cites the results of a survey of Cameroonian journalists' social conditions that were presented in November 2011 by the National Union of Journalists in Cameroon (Syndicat national des journalistes du Cameroun, SNJC):

[translation]

46 percent of media men do not have a work contract; 52 percent of journalists have a secondary income and the average monthly salary of a journalists is 101,225 [CFA francs (XAF), approximately CA$201 (XE 12 Mar. 2012)]. Only 6 percent of Cameroonian journalists have health insurance. The study revealed that 91 percent of Cameroonian journalists are single tenants who have been renting their homes for more than three years. It also showed that 45 percent of Cameroonian journalists plan to leave the profession (Mboa.info 8 Nov. 2011).

Moreover, a survey conducted in September 2009 by the SJEC indicated that approximately [translation] "58 percent of journalists receive a monthly salary of more than 50,000 [XAF, approximately C$100 (XE 21 Feb. 2012)] … while 32 percent are paid less than that" (AFP 19 Feb. 2010), which does not correspond to the minimum salary of approximately 115,840 XAF, determined by the collective agreement for [translation] "journalists and related professions" (Africa info 3 May 2010). The authors of the SJEC survey states that [translation] "a regular salary is received by 42 percent of respondents, especially those in public media … and that journalists in the private media claimed that ‘in most cases, salaries were two to ten months in arrears'" (AFP 19 Feb. 2010).

3. Falsified Articles for the Purpose of Refugee Claims

Two sources consulted by the Research Directorate indicated being aware of cases in which Cameroonian journalists have falsified newspaper articles in order to support refugee claims made by Cameroonians abroad (Journalist from the Quotidien Mutations 29 Feb. 2012; Journalist from the Journal du Cameroun 30 Jan. 2012). Global Integrity noted that journalists practise "[f]ake journalism" in Cameroon, to help Cameroonian refugee claimants abroad (2010). Newspaper editors take bribes from relatives of refugee claimants to publish articles that would not "normally" pass basic journalism standards, such as stories about the "‘persecution' of activists [that] include the name indicated by the person paying the bribe" (Global Integrity 2010). Global Integrity reports that refugee claimants submit fake news stories as evidence in support of their political asylum claims (ibid.). These "activists" are often described as being members of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), a group that campaigns non-violently for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons, the English-speaking-minority part of the country (ibid.).

As an example of the "persecution" of SCNC activists by the Cameroonian authorities, Global Integrity cites, among others, an article published on 23 April 2010 by the Buea daily the Cameroon Express, which reads, in part, as follows:

The Yaounde regime under Mr. Biya is said to have continued with the persistent violation of the basic rights of Cameroonians. … William Diony was recently arrested in Kumba on grounds that his son, Mayer Diony, who fled the country, is an SCNC activist. In April 2002, he was arrested on the instruction of the Ministry of Internal Security and detained alongside other members during a public manifestation. … Family members of some SCNC activists on self-exile abroad told this reporter that they are being manhandled and molested by security operatives (ibid.).

According to Global Integrity, that article was not signed and attributed the "persecution" to a "Ministry of Internal Security" that does not even exist in Cameroon . Also, historically, relatives of demonstrators are not incriminated in such protests in the country" (ibid.).

Global Integrity also noted that the authors of these articles focussing on refugee claimants have no training and are owners of small newspapers, in which they publish articles for a fee (ibid.). According to the journalist from the Journal du Cameroun, the newspapers that engage in this practice are newspapers that appear sporadically (30 Jan. 2012). He added that this happens regularly and that it [translation] "is not really seen as corruption" (Journalist from the Journal du Cameroun 30 Jan. 2012). The journalist from the Quotidien Mutations stated that this practice was [translation] "rare" and mainly involved [translation] "private and poor" newspapers (29 Feb. 2012).

According to Global Integrity, "[c]riminal libel is used to hammer erring journalists but, surprisingly, not those mired in the publication of asylum stories," and "prosecutors focus their searchlight on critics of government officials and power barons" (2010). According to the journalist from the Quotidien Mutations, the government does not address with the matter of fake news articles, especially since no complaints are ever filed against those types of newspapers (29 Feb. 2012).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Africa info. 3 May 2010. Norbert Tchana Nganté. "Cameroun : liberté de la presse, le travailleur des médias en danger." [Accessed 29 Feb. 2012]

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 19 February 2010. "Cameroun : un tiers des journalistes payés moins de 76 euros par mois (enquête)." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2012]

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). 2011. Le Baromètre des médias africains : Cameroun 2011. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d.a. "The African Media Barometer (AMB)." [Accessed 17 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. "About Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung/FES." [Accessed 17 Feb. 2012]

Global Integrity. 2010. "Cameroon Notebook: Fake Journalism at Home Helps Cameroonian Asylum-Seekers Abroad." Asong Ndifor. Global Integrity Report. [Accessed 27 Jan. 2012]

_____. N.d. "Our Approach." [Accessed 17 Feb. 2012]

Journalist from the Journal du Cameroun [Yaoundé]. 30 January 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

Journalist from the Quotidien Mutations [Yaoundé]. 29 February 2012. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.

Mboa.info. 8 November 2011. William Tchango. "Médias : une enquête qui ‘ridiculise' les journalistes camerounais." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2012]

XE. 21 February 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 21 Feb. 2012]

_____. 12 March 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Africa info, Cameroon Postline, Cameroun Online, École supérieure des sciences et techniques de l'information et de la communication, Le Messager, Quotidien Le Jour, The Star, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The Vanguard. The following organizations could not provide any information within the time constraints for this Response: Cameroon Radio Television, Canadian High Commission in Yaoundé.

Internet sites, including: Africa Presse.com, Afrik.com, Afrol News, AllAfrica.com, Amnesty International, Camer.be, Cameroon-Info.net, Cameroon Radio Television, Cameroon Tribune, Cameroun Online, Camnews24, Committee to Protect Journalists, ExcelAfrica, Grio.com, The Herald, Internet Center for Corruption Research, Irondel, Jeune Afrique, Mémoire Online, La Nouvelle Expression, Panapress, Reporters sans frontières, Tolerance.ca, Transparency International, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, United States Department of State, Université de Yaoundé.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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