World Press Freedom Day: Communication Minister Says Cameroonian Press Gripped By Worrying Economic Situation

René Emmanuel Sadi speaking during the 31st World Press Freedom Day

By Godfred Sackmu

The Cameroon Minister of Communication, René Emmanuel Sadi, has said a vast majority of Cameroonian press is in a worrying economic situation.

He made the statement on May 3, in Yaounde, during the celebration of the 31st edition of World Press Freedom Day.

“We must acknowledge that the vast majority of the Cameroonian press is in the grip of a particularly worrying economic situation. This press operates in an environment marked by the economic precariousness of its structures, which has a strong impact on the development of its human resources and, in general, its operating performance,” the Minister noted.

To remedy the problems plaguing the media landscape, Emmanuel Sadi said his Ministry has embarked on an in-depth dialogue with the intermediary bodies of the profession (various professional groups and journalist unions), to come to an agreement on issues as well as solutions likely to improve sustainably the operating balances of national media enterprises.

“For instance, the creation of an Audiovisual Development Fund under Law No. 2015/007 of 15 April 2015 governing the audiovisual sector in Cameroon, will be depending on the effectiveness of this fundamental innovation, constitute a substantial support mechanism for the sub-sectors concerned.”

The communication Boss, who is also the government’s spokesperson, outlined that the written press and online press, the rechanneling of audiovisual media development towards the Audiovisual Development Fund has automatically increased the envelopes intended for the two operators of the aforementioned sub-sectors who are beneficiaries of the institutional support for privately-owned media.

To him, efforts will continue to be made in this direction. “At a purely legal level, a thorough overhaul of the framework law on social communication has been initiated based on the resolutions and recommendations of the last Communication Forum,” he said.

While harping on the purpose of the day, the Minister said press freedom should be seen as a permanent quest in what needs to be achieved.  “The major innovations and changes taking place today, especially in the digital field, invite us to make relevant appropriations and professional adaptations to better optimise media performance and its impact on global societal development.”

According to him, it is up to the conventional media to take the full measures of the contributions of digital technology, as well as the subsequent economic models, by contextualising them as much as possible at the national level.

The theme of the 31st edition of World Press Freedom Day was “Journalism under digital siege”.

The theme, the Minister believed, called to question this new technological and professional development, especially its impact on the practice of journalism, access to reliable information, and the media economy in the broader sense.

He added that, “It is indeed undeniable that the digital economy is increasingly shaping the dissemination of information through the media, as well as audience responses to the information received. These major advances have opened up invaluable opportunities for media professionals to multiply the various channels of access to information sources, and ultimately to reach ever-broader audiences around the world,” he averred.

The Communication Minister equally frowned at some media organs that use their programs to incite violence and hate speech.

“In this march towards the construction of a society of freedom and democracy, which we can all boast about, several dysfunctions and abuses are regrettably recorded here and there. These include, first and foremost, the transformation of radio and television talk shows into verbal bullrings and prosecution places which, daily and in the open, hand down sentences against people. Then come the recurrence of defamation, insults and other unwarranted attacks on honour and dignity, without the victims of such attacks having the possibility to defend themselves, and the rise in hate speech, incitement to violence and hostility against the homeland,” he said.

The Minister revealed that Cameroon has to date 700 newspapers, which are published fairly regularly; over 150 radio broadcasting stations, including about fifty community radios, about a hundred television channels as well as flourishing and dynamic online media.

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