YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon has threatened all journalists who it says are refusing to be patriotic, after TV reporter Samuel Wazizi was arrested for allegedly supporting separatist fighters in Cameroon’s English-speaking north, west, and southwest regions. The journalists say it is becoming impossible for them to practice their profession, as they face pressure from both separatist fighters and the government.
Paul Atanga Nji, territorial administration minister, says Cameroon's journalists are becoming highly unpatriotic.
"They have one main objective, just to sabotage government action, to promote secessionist tendencies," said Nji. "I urge them to be responsible. Those who do not want to respect the laws will be booked as being recalcitrant and will be treated as such."
Atanga Nji also says most journalists support the opposition and believe that President Paul Biya was not the true winner of the October 2018 presidential election.
Macmillan Ambe, president of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, says the threat from the government is one of many that journalists have faced since the separatist crisis began in 2016.
He says journalists should be given the freedom they need to do their work.
"When you get the minister of territorial administration giving lessons to journalists on how to report, it just adds to some of the difficulties we are already facing," said Ambe. "We are subjected to torture, be it physical or psychological. We have also had cases of several journalists who are being called up for questioning, so it becomes very difficult for us to operate."
Ambe was abducted by separatist fighters in the city of Bamenda last February after he criticized their call for families not to send their children to school.
More recent threats came after Samuel Waziz, an announcer at Chillen Music Television who has hosted shows critical of the government, was arrested by the military. His lawyers said he was accused of hosting separatist fighters in his farm, an allegation he dismissed.
Journalist Promise Akanteh of Royal FM, a radio station in Yaounde who also hosts critical programs, says she has been threatened several times within the past two weeks.
"I have had several phone calls threatening me. Do you know that your daughter still needs you? I said, 'yes, sir.'" So be careful with what you say on air. I do not know who was calling," said Akanteh. "The person threatens me and says be careful with what you say on air. I am telling you this, another person will not be this nice to you."
The separatists launched their fight in 2017, after English-speakers protested political and economic discrimination in the majority French-speaking country. The government reacted with a crackdown in November 2017 and since then, 2,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.