Freedom of the Press 2010 - Cameroon
|Publication Date||30 September 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Cameroon, 30 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca44d9b1e.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 21
Political Environment: 24
Economic Environment: 21
Total Score: 66
|Total Score, Status||68,NF||65,NF||67,NF||65,NF||65,NF|
The 1996 constitution provides for freedoms of the press and speech, but the government continued to restrict these rights in practice during 2009.
There are no legal provisions guaranteeing equal access to information. Libel and defamation remain criminal offenses, and the relevant laws were regularly enforced by the state in 2009. For example, Lewis Medjo, publisher of the weekly La Detente Libre, was sentenced in January to three years in prison and a fine of two million CFA francs (US$4,000) for "dissemination of false news." In other cases, journalists accused of libel have been detained for months without standing trial.
In August 2009, Sky One Radio, a privately owned station based in the capital, was temporarily closed by Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary because of "numerous issues concerning media professionalism." The station's popular call-in program Le Tribunal covered sensitive social problems and allowed individuals to discuss their grievances.
Journalists covering high-profile corruption cases were harassed with legal action and extralegal threats during the year. According to Journaliste en Danger (JED), in June 2009 a military tribunal in Yaounde sentenced Jacques Blaise Mvie and Charles Rene Nwe of the private weekly La Nouvelle to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs (US$1,000); the journalists were only informed of the closed-door hearing after the fact. Jean Bosco Talla, editor of the privately owned weekly Germinal, reported receiving anonymous threats after his paper republished a report by the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development that questioned the wealth of President Paul Biya. In December, Talla was sentenced to a suspended one-year prison term, as well as a fine of three million CFA francs (US$6,000), for allegedly libeling the president. In another case, Jules Koum Koum, editor of the weekly Le Jeune Observateur, was repeatedly threatened for his coverage of corruption; he faced several incidents involving armed intruders who removed work-related documents from his home, as well as the hacking of his e-mail accounts.
Journalists are occasionally physically assaulted, in some instances by police or other security forces. In September, cameraman Freddy Nkoue was attacked by police officers in a courthouse as he prepared to cover a case involving leaders of two opposing factions of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), a political party. Police damaged his camera and took away his belongings, while he managed to escape with a fractured left hand.
There are about 25 regularly published newspapers, including private and state-owned papers, as well as dozens of others that publish sporadically. A number report on a range of controversial issues and criticize the government, although their reach is largely confined to urban areas.
Radio is the most important medium for most of the population. The state-owned CRTV operates both radio and television outlets. The first private radio and television licenses were granted in 2007, though approximately 70 privately owned radio stations reportedly operate outside the law because of high licensing fees.
Foreign broadcasters are permitted to operate within Cameroon and are widely accessible to those who can afford the requisite equipment. However, such stations are required to partner with a national station in order to broadcast.
The government is the largest advertiser, and some private media sources noted that it used this financial heft to influence certain content. Official funding to support private media outlets was also disbursed selectively, according to the U.S. State Department.
Access to the internet is not restricted by the government, though slow connections and high fees at internet cafes helped to limit access to less than four percent of the population in 2009.