CPJ said that apart from detaining journalists, authorities had also banned news outlets deemed sympathetic to the Anglophone protesters, shut down internet in regions experiencing unrest, and prevented outside observers, including CPJ, from accessing the country by delaying the visa process.
“Journalists say that the risk of arrest or closure has led to an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship – an unhealthy climate considering that elections are scheduled for next year,” CPJ said in its report. CPJ quoted an editor of one English publication as saying that the government conflated news coverage of militants or demonstrators with praise, resulting in journalists becoming confused as to what they could or could not report on safely.
“Publications are publishing blind because the government, out of frustration, can decide that any published report is trying to favour the agitators…. We are told what the difference is about reporting the facts or acclaiming what is happening and we therefore run the risk of contravening the anti-terrorism law,” the editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity was quoted as saying.
CPJ said that Cameroon had a diverse media environment, with at least 600 newspapers, 30 radio stations, 20 television stations and 15 news websites – but this did not mean that information flowed freely.
“Honestly, in Cameroon now, most of us in the private media are free to report only what the government wishes to see,” said a newspaper proprietor who like many asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation. “There is an atmosphere of fear. You don’t report about the issue of federalism [or] all those issues that are considered to be unfriendly to the regime – even if they are true.”
Opposition political parties also maintained that the anti-terror law as a powerful tool of fear. President Biya himself was appointed prime minister in 1975 and assumed the presidency in 1982. He was one of the longest serving presidents. The parliament revised the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits.