Cameroon is not an ideal place for journalists to thrive in the line of duty due to laws that constantly threaten their freedom and independence, a recent report by a media rights group has said.
The 2018 Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders said Cameroonian authorities have imposed a climate of fear and self-censorship on media practitioners.
The index showed that the central African country had made a slight progress from 2017 moving from 130th spot to 129th this year. That notwithstanding, journalists face huge hurdles some of which led to exorbitant fines and in some cases jail terms.
What RSF said about Cameroon: Constant threat to media outlets
The communication minister said in September 2017 that press freedom was guaranteed in Cameroon “as long as it is consonant with the defense of institutions.” The authorities have imposed a climate of fear and self-censorship.
At the same time, the government has withheld final legal certification from many radio stations in order to keep them under permanent threat of closure.
Another commonly implemented practice is bringing defamation prosecutions against journalists without notifying them. This often leads to exorbitant fines or lengthy prison terms without the ability defend oneself in court.
The 2014 terrorism law that provides for trial by military court has been used to keep a Radio France Internationale correspondent in detention for nearly two and a half 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.
African outlook for 2018 RSF Index
Africa failed to make the top twenty of the annual ranking with the continent’s freest nation being Ghana at 23rd spot of the 180 country ranking. The country beat Namibia who until now were the best.
Namibia came in 26th, South Africa came in 28th followed in 29th spot by Cape Verde. Burkina Faso completed the top 5 spot for Africa at 43rd spot.
Unfortunately, the continent also made a strong showing at the tail of the list. Eritrea had the worst media freedom placing 179th only behind North Korea. Africa had three other countries in the last 10. Equatorial Guinea at 171st.
Djibouti and Sudan at the 173rd and 174th spots respectively. Other worst performing African nations included Burundi, Egypt, Libya and Somalia at the 159th, 161st, 162nd and 168th slots respectively.