We, associations of English-speaking journalists and defenders of woman’s rights, condemn the verbal assault and insults by the SDF Chairman, Mr John Fru Ndi, on two journalists, including a woman, during a press conference in Yaounde on December 12, 2020, as reported by The Guardian Post No. 2034 of December 14, 2020, and demand an immediate apology from him.
The party Chairman’s utterances gave a sense of the same condemnable attitude of undermining the Press, a vital corps in the socio-political and socio-economic development of society by politicians in power and those still in the opposition.
We have keenly listened to an audio clip of the entire press conference circulating on social media and we heard our colleague, Ebenezer Akanga, who works for CRTV, the state TV broadcaster, ask the Chairman whether he did not think his party ought to share in the blame for the electoral predicament his party was deploring at the press conference.
As the watchdogs of society and mediators of the socio-political landscape with a duty to hold public personalities to account, we simply expected the SDF Chairman to admit Akanga’s claim or deny it with explanations. We are shocked at his bad-tempered response and the uncivil badmouthing of our colleagues. Nothing in the audio recording of the press conference suggested nor justified Fru Ndi’s “shut up your mouth, shut up your mouth” assault on our colleague.
Protesting the incident, our colleague, Franklin Sone Bayen, Executive Secretary of both CReAM (Come and Redeem Anglophone Media Practice) and CiJA (Courage in Journalism Awards) says, “A politician who tells a journalist to shut up would shut up journalists by locking them up if such a politician ever got to power.” That is disquieting to us.
Commenting on the brawl, Akanga says, “I felt humiliated to be insulted in public and infront of my colleagues simply for asking a question as a journalist. At my own small level, I have decided that I will not go to cover any activity of the SDF again.”
Reacting to another incident at the same press conference where Fru Ndi described a female journalist, Annie Babele who works for The Post newspaper, as “very ugly”, our colleague, Commy Mussa, CEO of a women’s rights organization, Sisterspeak237, says by so doing the SDF Chairman knowingly or unknowingly promoted “the tradition of denigrating women in media by criticizing their appearance rather than their work.
“Such attacks can reinforce gender norms, create pressure for women to present themselves attractively (with “attractiveness” defined by men, of course), and even persuade some women to stay out of the public sphere altogether,” Mussa underscored.
“Verbal abuse from a top ranking personality on a fellow woman irrespective of the circumstances and context, is totally unacceptable because it is from them that we expect to see good examples.”
While still evaluating the possible short-term and long-term consequences of the Chairman’s action on our corps and on the said individuals and considering any action we may take in the future, we demand an immediate apology from Chairman Fru Ndi to the individuals and the Press Corps in general and hope this type of arrogance towards the Press will cease forthwith.
Done in Yaounde, this 16th day of December 2020
-Cameroon Association of English-speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ)
-Cameroon Community Media Network (CCMN)
-Come and Redeem Anglophone Media Practice (CReAM)
-Courage in Journalism Awards (CiJA)
-Association of Combined Action to Protect and Empower Journalists (ACAPEJ)