English speaking journalists in Cameroon are reportedly confronting a growing spate of military violence and in many cases arrest over the last five years ever since the 88-year-old President Biya declared war against the people of Southern Cameroons-Ambazonia. The fraternity hangs in balance with many questioning if truth is meaningful in Cameroon under Biya.
Soon after the Francophone dictator declared war against the English speaking minority in Southern Cameroons, his political acolytes including Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo realized that the war in Southern Cameroons can only be sustain by restricting freedom of speech and expression deep within the English speaking media community. And five years after the war in Southern Cameroons started, English speaking journalists are caught in a limbo not just about how to report but also what to report.
Many English speaking journalists have been killed, many detained and many now fear for personal safety including right to report the facts, while others are intimidated, harassed and even charged under draconian and sedition laws. The Francophone dominated army and memers of the Cameroonian Secret Service are threatening some aggressively-the list is long, Samuel Wazizi, Mimi Mefo, Tah Jarvis Mai, Asu Vera Eyere and Kingsley Fomonyuy Njoka.
According to the exiled leader of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government, Vice President Dabney Yerima, several cases of violence against Southern Cameroons journalists were recorded from January 2019 till July 2021. Human Rights Watch experts say press freedom has further diminished after the emergence of the all powerful Minister-Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh.
The last five years have seen a dramatic rise in violence against English speaking Cameroonian journalists, while they were covering stories on different aspects of the Southern Cameroons war. The state owned Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV) media house has also become a tool for trolling or threatening not just English speaking journalists, but anyone, be it someone criticizing the poor preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations, someone talking about the need for a new leadership in Yaounde, or anyone critical of the government policies.
Many renowned Southern Cameroonian journalists and media personalities have now shifted their platforms from the pursuit of truth to praise singing (See our report on Ashu Theodore Nyenty). Many more are now using pen names and are writing for independent media houses abroad while some have resorted to social media as an easy tool to put forth their side of the stories.
Experts say after the rise of Paul Atanga Nji as Minister of Territorial Administration, there is a sense of polarized environment where English speaking journalists find themselves more divided. While many like Ayukogem Steven Ojong, Sone Bayern, Charles Ebune and Ashu Nyenty are still confused if it’s all about patronizing the popular rather than speaking about the unpopular. The question remains how long someone can remain ignorant in a country like Cameroon where more people have access to international TV channels and social media than access to welfare schemes, healthcare and housing. But the never ending or perhaps unwanted ruling CPDM party debates find more space in Cameroon media platforms rather than the ones that make difference.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai