22 February 2008

Cameroon: Fru Ndi's Ideas On Constitutional Amendment Banned On CRTV

The management of the Cameroon Radio and Television, CRTV, has warned journalists not to broadcast any declarations by the SDF Chairman, John Fru Ndi, that oppose the ongoing bid by the CPDM to amend Article 6.2 of the Constitution.

In a verbal warning in the CRTV newsroom recently, the Director of Information, Alain Belibi, reportedly told journalists not to broadcast any anti-constitutional amendment material from Fru Ndi.

"That is why Fru Ndi's recent Douala press conference was heavily censored," a CRTV source, who asked for anonymity, told The Post.In the same vein, the music of one of Cameroon's critical artists, Longue Longue, has been proscribed on CRTV radio.

The Director of Programmes at the radio, Celestin Boten, slammed the ban on January 31, after one journalist not only played Longue Longue's critical piece "50 ans au pouvoir" (50 years in power) but commented on it.

In a service note No. 002/CRTV/DG/DP-R, Boten said any journalist who airs Longue Longue's "50 ans au pouvoir" would face serious sanctions. Billy Karson, the journalist who aired the musical piece, has been suspended and banned from going on air at CRTV.

This move is in tandem with the upsurge of censorship in CRTV of recent. Following the recent broadcast of a programme in which the Chairman of the Alliance of Progressive Forces, Barrister Ben Muna, argued against the ongoing bid for a constitutional amendment, journalists of the programme "Morning Safari" have been under fire.

The Minister of Communication, Jean Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, has not only threatened to ban the programme, but has reportedly appointed the Deputy Director of Programmes at the radio to monitor the way journalists are treating the topic of the constitutional amendment.

He is supposed to be monitoring the programme from Monday to Thursday, before writing reports to the Minister. Besides, all the Editors-in-Chief at CRTV are compelled to submit, every 5 pm, what would appear in the news the next day.

Authorities began threatening "Morning Safari" as far back as 2004. Following complaints from the Prime Minister's office that the programme was too critical of government, the then CRTV Director of programmes, Gervais Mbarga, issued a service note warning the journalists to tone down.

Dated June 3, 2004, the note No. 002 276/CRTV/DG/CCD.DP, cautioned the journalists to produce programmes that would please the authorities and preserve social peace and national unity.

One State official is reported to have qualified the programme as a nest of rebels, compelling the authorities to get some critical journalists out of it. Besides, two teams of journalists were appointed to run the programme thereby weakening it. In a move to curry favours from the authorities, the Deputy Director of Programmes at the time reportedly brought in the obnoxious Northwest-Southwest divide among journalists of the programme.

The Deputy Director is said to have complained to the then Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge, that the programme was dominated by journalists of Northwest origin, who were too critical of the regime.

Although Mbarga who conceived and created the programme, argued that there was no need for a parliament-like representation in it, CRTV management went ahead to appoint two teams to run the programme. More journalists of Southwest origin were now appointed. Representation between Northwest and Southwest was now equal in the programme.

Even as Fru Ndi's thoughts on constitutional change were being censored and even as security operatives are locked in bloody confrontations with anti-constitutional change campaigners, CRTV was, on Wednesday night, giving wide publicity to Issa Tchiroma's endorsement of Biya's life presidency bid.

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