YAOUNDE - Some private media in Cameroon are refusing to cover the prime minister after he seized a reporter’s equipment earlier this week. Journalists say they are fed up with government intimidation, mistreatment and difficulties accessing information.
CRTV reporter Teke Julius was covering a visit by Prime Minister Philomen Yang to a stadium construction site when reporters say Yang personally grabbed Julius’ equipment and ordered it destroyed. Julius was then detained by the police for several hours.
Newspaper publisher Ndi Eugene Ndi is the public relations officer of the Cameroon Association of English Newspaper Journalists.
"Besides the boycott and blackout on any activity that the PM is present, the PM has to publicly apologize to all the journalists in Cameroon. What the prime minister did is total disrespect of journalists in Cameroon. In fact, total disrespect of the media as a whole," said Ndi.
Journalists reached out to Cameroon’s National Communications Council to secure Julius’ release. No charges have been filed.
The president of the NCC told VOA the prime minister’s aides say Julius had disrespected their boss, apparently positioning himself behind the prime minister during a press availability and touching him with the microphone.
Julius says he was doing his job. The prime minister's office declined to comment.
Private media say the government, including the prime minister's office, routinely deny reporters access to information.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, Cameroon's Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma issued a statement pledging zero tolerance for what he called unethical reporting.
He said the social responsibility of the journalist in Cameroon is undermined by journalists who take advantage of the Internet to report only negative stories about Cameroon. He said all such reporters should know that disrespect for state institutions and individuals, defamation and attacks on people’s dignity will not be tolerated.
Cameroon has been consistently rated “not free” by the watchdog group Freedom House in its annual global press freedom rankings.
Three reporters and a journalism professor are facing charges before a military tribunal in Cameroon for refusing to reveal their sources for unpublished stories about an alleged plot against the government.
Cameroon's National Assembly passed a law last year that sets a 15-year jail sentence for journalists who announce anti-government protests ahead of time or cover them without authorization, as well as for journalists found to be reporting with sympathy toward suspected terrorists.
The National Communications Council has banned two newspapers and six radio and TV programs in the past seven months, though the outlets have changed their names and continue to report.