YAOUNDE - Cameroon's National Communication Council, the government media regulator, has suspended 30 journalists or radio and TV programs for what it calls biased reporting.
Among the more than 30 media organizations and journalists the NCC has suspended or warned are newspapers La Nouvelle Expression, La Meteo, L'Anecdote and the capital city radio station Amplitude FM.
NCC president Peter Essoka said the media organizations and journalists were suspended from one to six months because of unprofessional conduct and refusal to respect norms and ethics of journalism.
"When a journalist comes up with a newspaper article and says a certain minister is known to be running with the prime minister’s wife, how do you take that? It is indecent. It is indecent. And then he lists out that this minister is sleeping with this other minister, how does that help the society? It does not in any way. The media are supposed to play a very, very important role in its development, but then when we take on trivial things and say rubbish about lots and lots and lots of things, it hurts the heart," Essoka said.
Ministers, directors general, a lawmaker and a former army general had written to the NCC complaining their rights were abused by the journalists' reports.
But Journalist and IPS correspondent Mbom Sixtus said since its creation the NCC has been used as a tool to punish journalists.
"I have the impression that the National Communication Council was created to serve government officials or influential citizens. The Communication Council will hardly prove a minister wrong, so I do not think the council was created to regulate or bring order in the practice of journalism in Cameroon," Sixtus said.
Cameroon has about 600 newspapers, 200 radio, TV and online stations, and 15 news websites, according to the Ministry of Communication.
Reporters Without Borders in 2014 reported that Cameroon's Communication Council had taken a clearly tougher line towards journalists and media, which was reflected in the number of summonses it issued and the suspensions it had ordered.
Cameroon is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
Last week, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported Cameroon has been using its 2014 anti-terror law to “silence critics and suppress dissent."