Mass Media and Democratisation in Cameroon in the Early 1990s
210 Pages
English
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Mass Media and Democratisation in Cameroon in the Early 1990s

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210 Pages
English

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In the on-going democratic debate, the Cameroonian media have not played the role of objective mediators. A one-party logic, of which government, opposition and the public are guilty, has prevented Cameroonian multipartyism from addressing the major issue: that of how best to bring about real participatory democracy. So far, democracy has served mainly as a face powder, an empty concept or slogan devoid of concrete meaning used to justify reactionary propaganda by the ruling party and its acolytes on the one hand, and revolutionary propaganda by the opposition and some pressure groups on the other. This polarisation in the Cameroonian political arena corresponds to a similar polarisation in the Cameroonian media. One can identify two main political tendencies in the media: first, there are those who argue that all the government does is good and in the best interest of Cameroon, and that the radical opposition is void of patriots and motivated only by selfish, regional, or ethnic self-interests. These comprise the publicly owned, government-controlled electronic and print media on the one hand, and pro-government �privately� owned newspapers on the other. Second, there are those who claim that all the radical opposition does or stands for is in the best interest of Cameroon, and that the government and its allies are only motivated by a stubborn love of power and other selfish pursuits. These comprise the bulk of the privately owned papers. The media are polarised into two diametrically opposing camps, each claiming to know and represent the best interests of the Cameroonian people.

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Published 26 July 2011
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EAN13 9789956717811
Language English
Document size 5 MB

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MASS MEDIAand DEMOCRATISATIONinCAMEROONin theEARLY1990s
FRANCISB.NYAMNJOH
Mass Media & Democratisation in Cameroon in the Early 1990s Francis B. Nyamnjoh
Langaa Research & Publishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher: LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Langaagrp@gmail.com www.langaa-rpcig.net Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective orders@africanbookscollective.com www.africanbookcollective.com
ISBN: 9956-717-18-5 ©Francis B. Nyamnjoh 2011
DISCLAIMER All views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Langaa RPCIG.
Table of Contents Preface.............................................................................. v Introduction...................................................................... viiChapter One: Multipartyism in Cameroon..................1Chapter Two: The Official Media................................. 11 CRTV and the Democratic Process.................................... 11 CRTV and Anglophone Journalism of Liberation............... 26 Cameroon Tribune, SOPECAM and the Democratic Process............................................ 39 The Official Media and Opposition Politics................... 43 Chapter Three: The Legal Framework........................ 53 Critical Analysis of the Press Law................................... 53 The Law As Interpreted By Government........................ 62 The Law As Interpreted By the Press.............................. 77 Justifications for Censorship by MINAT........................... 92 The Law and the Newspaper Vendor............................. 102 Chapter Four: The Private Press................................ 109 The Private Press and the Journalism of Excesses.......... 109 Lack of Professionalism and Adequate Organisation............................................ 118 On The Proliferation of Newspapers.............................. 128 Democracy: Victim of a Sectarian Press?........................ 133 Journalists and Their Problems: Self Diagnosis............... 154 After The National Forum on Communication: What Next?.......................................... 172 Chapter Five: General Conclusion................................ 177 What Role Have the Media Played In The Current Democratic Process?......................................................... 177 How Best Could the Media
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Contribute To Democratisation?..................................182 References...................................................................187
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PrefaceThis study on “Mass Media and Democratisation in Cameroon” can be seen as yet another step in the efforts of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation in Cameroon to help towards an understanding of the relationship between a sound media environment and the democratisation process. For a number of years today, the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation has tried to assist in the development of the media in Cameroon through studies, research, conferences and seminars on media-related subjects and various training activities for media practitioners. The present study by Dr. Francis Nyamnjoh marks, in essence, the Foundation’s objective to evaluate and valuate the links between media development and democratisation in Cameroon. If one agrees that media development and the level of freedom of the press, in a certain way, can function as an important indicator for the level of the democratic development of a country, and that free and independent media are an indispensable part of a democratic society, this study provides an excellent overview of the state of the art of the Cameroonian society and the difficulties involved in establishing democratic instruments and principles. Based on the results of the study, the basic question of the role of the media in the democratisation process was answered in an ambivalent way: The study shows that the media play a significant role in the democratisation process, but a positive role has yet to be developed by both press and government. Government still has to provide a stringent, operational legal framework – even after the National Forum on Communication, and the revision of the Freedom of Mass Communication law – which regulates media, and makes the court the sole and independent legal institution to deal with the media, and not one that controls and censors the media by a selective and not so transparent application of the law, as analysed in this study. The media, both audio-visual and print,
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have, on their part, to develop a professional approach. As the media still appear to be divided along tribal and ethnic lines, along positions linked to government and opposition policies, a professional media environment cannot develop, and henceforth can hardly deliver inputs in the democratisation process. The work of Francis Nyamnjoh presents a detailed and precise overview on five years of media development in Cameroon. It clearly states government’s problems with the newly developed “fourth power” but also clearly shows the partially lacking comprehension by journalists and editors when it comes to definition of their role and their function in a democratic society. The study also clearly highlights that besides a functional legal framework, and adequate training institutions, an institutional framework (associations, unions, representation of editors, etc.) based on interest groups, is necessary to improve standards of professionalism and to develop a code of ethics. There is still too much politics and too little journalism in the arena. Michael Hackenbruch Resident Representative Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, Cameroon, at the time of the study
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Introduction This study titledMass Media and Democratisation in Cameroon in the Early 1990s, has been realised thanks to funding by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, and thanks in particular, to Mr Michael Hackenbruch, former resident representative of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation in Cameroon. (i) Objectives and RelevanceThe study was started in April 1994 and completed in June 1995. Its objective was to examine the role of the mass media in the democratic process in Cameroon between 1990 and 1994. The basic assumption was that for the mass media to play a significant and positive role in the democratisation of Cameroon: (a) media institutions and practitioners must operate within a political and legal environment that allows them the freedom to inform the public on the virtues of democracy; (b) the economic and financial situation of the media and practitioners must be favourable for such a task; and (c) the media and media practitioners must be professional in their collection, treatment and dissemination of information relevant to democracy, and must seek to excel as objective mediators in the democratic debate and struggle. The study was intended to be both a measure of tolerance in the society at large and an x-ray of the practice of journalism as a profession in Cameroon at the dawn of multipartyism and democratisation. It is hoped that this research will contribute towards a better understanding of the democratic process in Cameroon, and that it might serve as an impetus for greater comparative research on the mass media and democracy in Africa.
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(ii) Research Design and HypothesesThe basic question in the study is that of the contribution of the mass media towards democratisation in Cameroon. To avoid being misled by declarations that do not reflect reality, the study has sought to understand both thede jureand thede facto situations of the mass media and democratisation in the country. It has also sought, where and whenever necessary, to match statements of intent either by media practitioners, politicians or administrators, with actual practice. Definition of concepts By mass media in this study, we mean radio, television and the press as found in Cameroon. By democratisation we mean all the efforts being made to introduce, encourage and live a democratic culture and society. In broad terms, indicators of democracy are tolerance for alternative views and ways, transparency and participation in decision making for all, and respect for basic human rights and dignity. At a national level, democratisation, in concrete terms, can be measured through the following questions: (a) how collective is the determination of law and policy? (b) is there equality in rights and dignity to all? (c) are decisions reached by majority vote after public debate? (d) how representative is parliament? (e) how separated are powers and how effective are the checks and balances between the different instances of power (i.e. executive, legislative, judiciary)? (f) how effective is the rule of law? (g) is there protection of minorities? (h) how free and accessible are the mass media? The role of the media in democratisation can be measured by seeking to know whether or not the media: (a) are themselves adequately informed and educated on the importance of democratic pluralism, (b) have socialised and assisted society towards a democratic consensus or commonality of democratic values, (c) have assisted in reducing viii
social tensions and cleavages in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Cameroon. In short, what have the media done to adopt and live the democratic culture and to promote democracy as a way of life in Cameroon? It is assumed that in the past the media could not play this role because of the restrictive legal and political environments in which they operated. Hypotheses In social sciences the application of the term ‘hypothesis’ has tended to be limited to quantitative research, because of the assumption that the more mathematical or statistical research is analysed, the more objective it becomes. This restrictive definition or usage, ignores to a large extent the aspect of human life which cannot be reduced to or stated in simple mathematical or statistical equations or formulae. In this study however, the term is used in a much more flexible manner, to refer to any guiding idea or statement informed by a review of literature or some preliminary observation of the mass media in a democratising Cameroon. In this study the main hypothesis or guiding idea is that the mass media have not succeeded to contribute in any significant and positive way to the democratic process in Cameroon through the dissemination of democratic values, and by applying democratic instruments to themselves in their practice of journalism. The study examines the relationship between the role played by the mass media and: (a) the political and legal environment within which they operate, (b) their economic and financial situation, and (c) the level of professionalism amongst media practitioners. The second hypothesis affirms that the failure by the mass media to play a significant and positive role in the democratisation of Cameroon, can be explained by: (a) the political and legal environment which is not sufficiently open, and does not provide the necessary legal framework ; (b) the poor economic and financial situation of the media and ix