As journalists around the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Cameroonian journalists criticized the lack of media freedom in their country, saying the press is manipulated by the government.
According to Voice of America, journalists said the growth of media outlets in the African country to more than 500 newspapers and 100 radio and television stations does not mean that there is press freedom. They said most outlets were created by the government to give that illusion.
Charlie Ndi Chia, president of the Cameroon Union of Journalists, said the country is "just deceiving the world into thinking that there is press freedom in Cameroon." He told the U.S.-funded news service that the government has " created its own Frankenstein monster and which is allowing everyone else to be a journalist, to have a media."
Journalist John Mbah Akru told VOA that the government sometimes tells news outlets what to report.
"They just call you, they dictate an article and you know these articles are carried and published and you call yourself a journalist," he said. “When you are a journalist, a publisher, and you find yourself being dictated a story, you should be ashamed of calling yourself a journalist.”
George Mbella wrote in the local Cameroon Tribune that he sees an urgent need for press empowerment so the media can "play its determining role as the Fourth Estate." He called for follow-up action to previous press forums that discussed the need for financial stability, the decriminalization of press offenses and other changes but ultimately made little progress.
Two events in the past few weeks have put Cameroonian journalists in harm’s way, drawing concern from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On April 24, a car of investigative journalist Denis Nkwebo exploded while parked outside his house. Nkwebo told CPJ that he had been warned by government contacts to be careful in his coverage of Cameroonian security forces; he was critical of the forces in an April 15 article.
Earlier in April, a Cameroonian newspaper editor was jailed for defamation. Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus, publisher and editor of the private weekly The Monitor, was accused of criminal defamation by the Cameroon Co-operative Credit Union League after publishing reports that said that the microfinance institution had used and distributed unlicensed software, embezzled funds, and engaged in bribery, among other allegations. A court sentenced Nicodemus to four months in prison and ordered him to pay $21,000 in damages.