By Hope Nda
The Cameroon Association of English-speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, has created a fund dubbed CAMESEJ Emergency Assistance Fund, CAMEAF, aimed at sustaining journalists caught in emergencies.
The fund, launched on May 3 in Yaounde, during the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, aims to cover journalists in health emergencies and to provide legal support to journalists persecuted because of their work. The CAMEAF is also expected to provide prison support to journalists who have been detained and to provide aid to journalists who go into exile because of their work.
The Fund, seen as the first of its kind in CAMASEJ, comes at a time when journalism in the country is increasingly being constrained by financial and political factors, with many journalists having been persecuted because of their job.
As a result, several CAMASEJ members and senior journalists have backed the initiative, and have already donated or pledged sums of money to kick start it. According to CAMASEJ National President, Jude Viban, at least FCFA 500,000 was needed for the fund to go operational and, thanks to donations made before and during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations, the fund has kicked off.
For someone to become part of the fund and to benefit from emergency assistance, they must be journalists recognised by a media organ through a press card or contract. However, a freelance journalist can also benefit from the fund.
Journalists are expected to register by filling out an application form, accompanied by an FCFA 10,000 registration fee (for journalists) or FCFA 20,000 (for publishers and media owners). After registration, members are expected to pay annual dues levied at FCFA 20,000.
To benefit from assistance when they are in emergency situations, journalists are expected to write an application to the CAMEAF Committee, which comprises a Project Coordinator; two representatives from CAMASEJ National Exco; a representative from each CAMASEJ chapter; a Public Relations Officer and Donors or Patrons of the Fund.
CAMASEJ says accountability will be ensured as management will be obliged to publish bi-yearly reports on how funds are used.