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Cameroon Closes Radio Station Critical of President

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Authorities in Cameroon have closed a private FM radio station that has been broadcasting illegally from the capital for several months. The station was highly critical of President Paul Biya.

Dementi FM began broadcasting about six months ago on a vacant frequency in the capital Yaounde.

Owner George Gilbert Baongla aired commentary and call-in shows highly critical of the Biya government - similar to the content of his Le Dementi newspaper which was closed last year.

Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary says he ordered security forces to close Dementi FM not because of the content of its broadcasts.  Bakary says there are many radio stations critical of the government, and most of them continue to operate under the government's policy of "administrative tolerance" even though they have not paid their $100,000 deposit for a broadcast license.

Bakary says the difference with Dementi is that when they found no one broadcasting at 90.5 FM they simply took the frequency for themselves unlike more than 100 independent radio stations that have been properly assigned frequencies by the Communications Ministry.

"Most of them have at least the acknowledgement of the ministerial department," he said. "We know of their existence because they have an authorization which enables them to operate legally despite the fact that they have not paid the due imposed by the law and regulations. But as far as Dementi is concerned, they discovered that there is a frequency which is available and they are operating. And this is completely wrong."

Bakary says he will close other pirate radio stations in the coming days as part of a campaign that he says is meant to clean up Cameroon's media landscape.

Dementi's closure follows an August crackdown on Sky One Radio for a program called "Le Tribunal" in which the radio presenter conducted trials and passed judgement live on air.

The Biya government says that program was inciting violence. Station owner Joseph Angoula Angoula says he is in talks with the communications ministry to pay his broadcast license deposit in installments. The program "Le Tribunal" will be dropped.

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