President Paul Biya and his Government have been cited in the 2021 Press Freedom Predators gallery published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB).
According to the report, Cameroon is among 37 nations in the world where the Government trample on press freedom by creating a censorship apparatus, jailing journalists arbitrarily or inciting violence against them, when they don’t have blood on their hands because they have directly or indirectly pushed for journalists to be murdered.
It indicates that since President Paul Biya took office in November 1982, he has been a predator to freedom of the press.
“Independent and critical media are threatened and subjected to regular reprisals. From arrests and threats directed against the pioneers of an independent press in the 1980s to lengthy detentions and prosecutions in more recent years, journalists have been kept under tight control. Those who work in the media have lived under pressure for four decades. Those who show signs of independence by refusing to join the ranks of government mouthpieces have suffered repercussions such as threats, close surveillance of their movements and communications, summonses, arrests, lengthy detentions…” RWB says in the report.
The report further reads that the legal framework, among the harshest in sub-Saharan Africa, is used as part of the system of predation. Where the law offers protective provisions, such as a maximum period for detention without trial, it is routinely bypassed. The 2014 antiterrorism law is often used arbitrarily to detain journalists, who are regularly accused of lack of patriotism if they criticize the authorities. In 2017, a government spokesman gave this narrow definition of freedom of the press, which only exists if it is deemed not to threaten the interests or survival of the government: “Journalists can say what they like, provided it is consistent with the defence of our institutions, the state and our government, which today is at war.”
A glaring example cited by RWB is the case of CRTV’s former Director General, Amadou Vamoulke holder of the record for pre-trial detention… And that of Samual Wazizi, accused of complicity with the pro-secessionist movement who died in suspicious circumstances after being held in military custody for several days.
Seven other African leaders are cited in the report, including; Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo Of Equatorial Guinea, Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Issaias Afeworki of Eritrea, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi of Egypt.
The blacklist equally include two women, Carrie Lam from Hong Kong and Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. According to RWB, the latter’s predatory methods has among others led to the prosecution of more than 70 journalists and bloggers.