Twenty-four hours after the World Press Freedom Day, journalists in Cameroon have continued reflections on how to promote press freedom and find solutions to challenges plaguing the media sector in Cameroon.
Over 40 journalists held discussions on May 4 in an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon. The journalists met simultaneously at the Embassy in Yaoundé and Embassy Branch office in Douala by video conference.
Addressing the journalists during the session, the U.S Ambassador to Cameroon, Christopher John Lamora said the Embassy is “committed to supporting media freedom and freedom of expression through exchange programs, professional training and media literacy workshops.”
The discussions held in line with the 2023 Press Freedom Day observed on the theme “Shaping a future of rights : freedom of expression as a driver for all human rights.” Two seasoned journalists, Georges Alain Boyomo and Kini Nsom moderated the exchanges.
Free media, yet challenging practice
Cameroon is reportedly among countries with the richest media landscapes in Africa. The country counts about 600 newspapers, 200 radio stations, over 60 TV channels and a plethora of online news organs.
Regardless, media experts say access to source, censorship, legal demands, arbitrary arrests and detention, abduction, assassination and a difficult economic context undermine the independence of some media practitioners.
But the U.S Ambassador to Cameroon, Christopher John Lamora is of the opinion that press freedom is a reality in the country.
“The fact that many Cameroonians journalists keep writing shows there is a free press in Cameroon. I listen to radio, read newspapers everyday. It’s not like a country where there’s just one newspaper,” the ambassador said.
Kini Nsom, one of the moderators of the reflections argued that press freedom is not possible when “there are laws that fasten control around the necks of journalists.”
He added that “the legal environment is not conducive and we are proposing that there should be the decriminalization of press laws.”
With regards to the problem of access to information, Kini Nsom says the “information act should be enacted to permit journalists have access to information like it has been done in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Journalists also want to create an umbrella association that will enable them unanimously take decisions in favour of press freedom. But they agree that this can only happen if the recommendations of the 2012 National communication forum are implemented.
The journalism profession in Cameroon has been invaded by unqualified persons who have no regard for the tenets of the profession. Journalists say defining who a journalist is will bring in order in the sector.
Kathy Neba Sina