The government of Cameroon indefinitely banned five news organizations April 3 in what is considered a move toward media censorship, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Two television programs where banned for content the regulators considered violent, and three radio programs were banned on vague charges of ethics violations, All Africa reports. Seven journalists were also suspended from work.
The censorship orders were announced in a National Communications Council press statement March 28. The council — created in 1991 as a consultative body to the office of the prime minister and comprised of members picked by President Paul Biya — were given new regulatory powers in January 2012.
The television programs — including “Canal 2tective,” a monthly investigative program on independent broadcaster Canal 2 International — were accused of showing long segments of “violent and indecent images.”
According to news reports, the stations did air programs that focused on gruesome murders throughout the country in March, andthis program investigated the discovery of mutilated corpses of young girls in the nation’s capital Yaoundé. The broadcast raised questions of the possibility of ritual killings and illegal trafficking of human organs, while discussing the inability of authorities to end the problem.
Ruben Malick Djoumbissié, the host of “Canal 2tective,” was suspended from broadcasting for three months.
The weekly program “IPP News,” on private station LTM TV, was also banned after covering the discovery of a headless body on the street. The program’s host, Josh Zela Amadou, was suspended from broadcasting for six months.
Duval Ebale, presenter of the now banned Youth FM’s “Déballage,” was suspended from broadcasting for six months. While Ebale told CPJ that the ban could be linked to his program’s coverage of allegations of financial irregularities in a water project by the Cameroonian government, he said he is still seeking a meeting to determine the specific reasons for the ban.
Three journalists, Jean Jacques Ola Bebe, Aimé Césaire Zambo and Claude Yong, from Amplitude FM’s now banned program “La Voix des sans Voix,” were suspended for three months. The program, titled “The Voice of the Voiceless,” was an outlet for citizens to air complaints.
Sky FM’s “Surface de Vérité” program, which mediated personal complaints, and its presenter, Hervé Mfoula, were suspended from broadcasting for three months. Mfoula told CPJ that he did not receive any warning prior to the ban.
The council’s secretary-general, Jean Tobi Hond, told CPJ the council had evidence to support its actions, but he could not comment on the details of the case. He also said journalists had the right to appeal the bans and suspensions.
Journalists who said they would appeal the ban were given a period of 10 days to present their case to the council.
"These programs put a spotlight on the serious problems affecting Cameroonian citizens, including crime, injustice, and corruption,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “The government has tried to disguise its actions as a matter of ethics, but everyone can see it for the censorship that it is. We call on authorities to drop these censorship orders immediately and to halt their continuing campaign to silence critical news and opinion."
By Nassim Benchaabane.