Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a decision by Cameroon’s National Communication Council (CNC) to suspend the head of one of the country’s most outspoken and popular TV channels, one of its star presenters, and one of its leading current affairs programmes for a month. The suspensions are arbitrary and unjustified, and constitute a serious press freedom violation, RSF said.
The one-month suspensions of Equinoxe TV director Sévérin Tchounkeu, presenter Cédric Noufele and the programme “Droit de Réponse” (Right of Reply) were announced by the media regulator on 1 April.
Alluding to a teachers’ strike, the CNC accused Equinoxe TV of “failing to manage” a guest whose comments were “liable to amplify a potentially explosive social demand.” It also accused Tchounkeu of making offensive comments about state institutions, and Noufele of broadcasting an amateur video that was not related to the subject discussed – an error that the TV channel had nonetheless acknowledged and repeatedly corrected.
“We condemns these suspensions, which have no serious grounds and clearly aim to sanction a media for its coverage of a strike that embarrasses the authorities,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This is nothing less than an attack on journalism and the right to news and information, which this regulator is supposed to protect. We call on the CNC, which is not in the habit of imposing arbitrary sanctions, to review this decision.”
Cameroonian journalists are often subjected to judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and sometimes very violent physical attacks, but politically motivated media suspensions are relatively rare. Equinoxe TV has been summoned before the CNC several times in the past but has not been suspended in recent years.
Cameroon is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.