Seventy journalists across the globe were killed in 2013, says a report from the UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon.
The report further says14 journalists have suffered the same fate this 2014, 211 were held in prison in 2013, 456 forced into exile since 2008 while 1000 have been killed since 1992. On average, one journalist is killed every week.
By Regina Fonjia Leke
These appalling figures were read in Buea, South West Region, on May 3, 2014 on the occasion of the 50th edition of the World Press Freedom Day celebrated under the theme “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the post-2015 Agenda”.
A moment of silence was observed for all journalists in war-torn nations in particular and the world in general.
Addressing the over 80 press men who turned out for the event, Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul, President of Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), lauded the Cameroon liberty laws of 1990 but criticized certain aspects of the law.
“How can you say the media is free, yet certain provisions insist that media organs must submit copies of the paper at the State Counsel, National Archives and SDO’s office, failure to do this attracts certain fines? I see this as giving rights to the journalists with the right hand and taking them back with the left,” said Nkemayang Paul.
The CEO of the Star newspaper said the time has come for journalists to fight for their rights and reshape the profession. He called on government to decriminalize press offences and for the immediate revision of the 1990 laws, which, according to him, have become obnoxious.
A report from UNESCO on World Press Freedom Day read out by the South West Regional Delegate for Communication highlighted the importance of a free and fair press in promoting democracy and sustainable development.
The report condemns the fact that journalists in many countries continue to face attack, detention and victimization for reporting the truth.
The report calls on all governments and individuals victimizing journalists to act now by freeing all journalists held in prison cell for no crime committed.
In a keynote address, the President of the Cameroon Union of Journalists (CUJ), Charlie Ndi Chia, stated emphatically that contrary to popular belief, journalists are not enemies of the state. He said the media as society’s watchdog is responsible for holding government, businesses and civil society to account but it is not an enemy to any of these arms.
The Editor-in-Chief of The Post newspaper urged the government to work in collaboration with the media to improve the running of the state.
Ndi Chia also called on journalists to stay true to the ethics of the profession and urged them not to sell out the respect and dignity that come with the profession for peanuts. He equally called on publishers to pay their staff in order to prevent them from indulging themselves in shameful acts just to get money for sustenance.
“Government should guarantee access to information and also give subvention, and adverts, which is the life wire of the private press. Ivory Coast gives out annual subventions to the private media to the tune of 1.5 billion francs cfa, but in Cameroon, it is just 150 million francs cfa. This is ridiculous!” said Theodore Mih Ndze a journalist with The Star newspaper.
The journalist also implored publishers and media owners to make sure their reporters are well taken care of.
“They should not just collect money and eat and forget of their reporters,” Mih Ndze said.
Elizabeth Enanga Mokake, who reports for The Post, said today, one cannot distinguish a professional journalist from a quack.
“Government should redefine who a journalist is; because many quacks who do not understand the ethics of the job have invaded the profession. Newspapers and radio stations pop up here and there; some owned by politicians who want to use the media not to inform, but to do propaganda for themselves and their parties,” Enanga Mokake said.
Representatives from the US Embassy, the British High Commission, the Ministry of Communication and the civil society attended the occasion.
Some of the key recommendations adopted at the end of the event included the revision of the 1990 Liberty Laws and removal of all obnoxious clauses therein; decriminalization of press offences; redefinition of public aid to private press; creation of a special fund for the private press; shunning of rumour-mongering by journalists and creation of a National Order of Journalist to regulate entry into the corps.