YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
Cameroon has shut down the offices and studios of pan-African television channel Afrique Media. The move is seen as part of an apparent continuing crackdown on journalists.
Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said Thursday he instructed officials in Cameroon's economic capital, Douala, to close down the channel’s facilities.
Bakary said he acted after the country's National Communications Council, the NCC, reported that the pan-African TV channel persistently failed to respect professional ethics.
Bakary said he would like Afrique Media to understand that Cameroon is a sovereign country and that media outlets should respect its laws and stop interfering in its policies. He said he is asking them to stop attacking individuals as the the job of a television station is to inform and never to make its journalists behave like judges.
Afrique Media has not released an official statement but has condemned the forced termination of its in-country programming. The TV channel is still broadcasting to Cameroon but now from Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea.
Demanding respect for state order
Peter Essoka, acting president of the NCC, said Afrique Media insulted policies of some countries that share diplomatic ties with Cameroon and defied a one-month suspension on broadcasting the government issued in June.
"The state order at least should be respected. I don't think there is anyone above the law in this country, and so Afrique Media cannot be above the law. So the action has to be taken whether they like it or not. It has to be. Period. I have taken the decision," said Essoka.
The NCC has sanctioned some 20 journalists this year. Some were told to report to police stations and others asked not to practice the profession for periods ranging from one month to six months after printing or broadcasting reports the agency said was overly critical of the government. Two journalists have been told not to leave the country.
Afrique Media apparently angered authorities with its reports on Cameroon's war against the Boko Haram insurgency. The channel suggested that since most weapons seized from the insurgents originated from France, Paris may be secretly supporting Boko Haram.
After sealing the offices of the TV station in Yaounde last week, Cameroon's military met stiff resistance when they attempted to do the same in Douala.
For three days, supporters of the channel surrounded the building and prevented the military from gaining access. Soldiers finally used batons and tear gas on Wednesday to clear the crowd and seal the offices.