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Cameroon drops four places on 2017 press freedom index

Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon's Communication Minister ©All rights reserved

Cameroon has failed the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The country has lost 4 places from the 2016 classification in which she occupied the 126th spot in the world and is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index..

According to a release by RSF after the classification, “the print and broadcast media are flourishing in Cameroon but the government has withheld final legal approval from many radio stations in order to keep them under permanent threat of closure. Another recently seen practice is bringing defamation prosecutions against journalists without notifying them, resulting in exorbitant fines or prison terms without being able to defend themselves in court. A terrorism law that provides for trial by military court has been used to keep a Radio France Internationale correspondent in detention for nearly two years. Other journalists were arrested during the crackdown on protests in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, where the Internet was disconnected for several months from January 2017 onwards.”

The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is very grave and highlights the scale and variety of the obstacles to media freedom throughout the world.

The Press Freedom Index reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies.

The 2017 Index shows that violations of the freedom to inform are less and less the prerogative of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships. Once taken for granted, media freedom is proving to be increasingly fragile in democracies as well. In sickening statements, draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators.

Many different levels of freedom of information exist in Africa, from Senegal and its lively newspapers to Eritrea, where the privately-owned media were reduced to a deafening silence long ago. After a wave of liberalization in the 1990s, arbitrary censorship is now only too common and has been intensified in recent years on the grounds of combatting terrorism, while acts of violence against journalists often go completely unpunished. The financial weakness of many media outlets makes them susceptible to political and financial influence that undermines their independence.

In January this year, Reporters Without Borders condemned the Cameroonian government’s multiple violations of freedom of information amid continuing protests by members of the country’s English-speaking minority.

The government deprived the English-speaking regions in the North West and South West of Internet access since 17 January to prevent the local population from using online social networks to exchange information about the protests.

“We condemn these measures aimed at intimidating and censoring the media,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The Cameroonian government is facing a political crisis but censoring media that cover this story will not help the government to resolve it more quickly.
“These measures are the latest in a series of decisions that violate freedom of information and seek to gag Cameroonian media outlets which, although sometimes frenetic, have a right to work freely.”source: The Voice weekly newspaper



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