The government of Cameroon says there is no media censorship in the country despite reports it has closed down radio and television stations following last week’s violent protests over fuel price increase and what some say is President Paul Biya’s maneuvering to amend the constitution in order to stay in power.
Professor Elvis Ngolle Ngolle is Cameroon’s minister for forestry and wildlife. He told VOA the stations were shut down because they might have broadcast insensitive and provocative information.
“Certain media have continued to broadcast and go about their businesses with all the freedom. In the case of Magic FM (a VOA affiliate) and Equinoxe, which is a television station in Douala, I think that it’s a specific case wherein they either carried out certain broadcasts which are insensitive, provocative, or controversial and obviously certain administrative decisions have been taken in order to ensure that these broadcasts do not endanger the stability or social order. But as far as I know, and it’s good for the world to know that in Cameroon the rule of law prevails, and the media enjoys the rule of law fully in Cameroon. There are over 20 or so radio and television stations in Cameroon,” he said.
Ngolle Ngolle agreed that if the government believed in the rule of law that it should have taken the stations involved in the alleged broadcast of provocative information to court.
“I agree with you that rule of law at the end of the day ends up in court. But for that to happen, for us to get to court, certain administrative actions are taken in order for us temporarily to ensure that there is stability and order. But as I told you, these two stations continue to enjoy the rights of their licenses. Their licenses have not been withdrawn,” Ngolle Ngolle said.
He denied speculations that President Paul Biya might have personally ordered the closure of the two stations.
“I don’t that the president of the republic has to take decisions at every level of government. I think that the government is an organized entity, and there are rules in place and there are officials in place at all levels. And obviously it is not a presidential decision,” he said.
Ngolle Ngolle also denied the government has ordered the media from broadcasting any further information about last week’s violent protests over higher fuel prices.
“As far as I know the media continues to broadcast some aspects of what took place last week. Perhaps it is in order not to incite the population and so forth that certain administrative officials have taken that decision. But it is a presidential decision as far as I know. And these media, both at the level of the radio and I think television continue to make allusion to the disturbances of last week. But I don’t think that there has been a presidential decision preventing or stopping the media from exercising their freedom because as you know, the president believes in the rule of law and continues to believe in it. And as he said in his message the other day, Cameroon believes in the rule of law and he intends that it remains so,” Ngolle Ngolle said.
Last week’s violent protests stemmed from the government’s decision to increase fuel price and what some say is President Paul Biya’s maneuvering to amend the constitution in order to stay in power.
Ngolle Ngolle said the government reduced the price of fuel following what he called democratic negotiations between the government and unions.
“First of all, it is good for the world to know and the public opinion to know given negotiations which democratic and have been democratic, the government has taken a decision which has reduced the price of fuel. And the Taxi Drivers’ Union expressed their satisfaction as far as that is concerned. As to the second question which you have raised, in other words, the revision of the constitution the debate continues to go on. It’s an open debate, and no one is prevented from making a contribution one way or the other. And at the end of the day consensus will prevail,” Ngolle Ngolle said.