AN ASSESSMENT OF PRESS FREEDOM IN CAMEROON: CASE STUDY OF THE MEDIA IN BUEA.
|JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION|
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This study looks at press freedom in Cameroon case study of the media in Buea
1.1 Background of the study
This study looks at press freedom in Cameroon. A free press depends on the free flow of information from the media to the people and from the people to the media. Journalists worldwide, whether working for the local, national or international press, routinely depend on non-journalists for the supply of information on issues of public interest.
Some individuals referred hereafter as sources, come forward with secret or sensitive information, relying upon the reporter to convey it to a regional, national or international audience to achieve publicity and stimulate public debate. In journalism, a source is a person, publication, or other record or document that gives timely information.
Examples of sources include official records, publication or broadcast, officials in government and businesses, organizations or corporations, witnesses of crime, accidents or other events, and people involved with or affected by a news event or issue.
In many instances, anonymity is the precondition upon which the information is conveyed from the source to the journalist, this may be motivated by fear of repercussions which might adversely affect their physical safety or job security. In the circumstances, journalists have long argued that they should be entitled to refuse to divulge both the names of their sources and the nature of the information conveyed to them in confidence.
The argument is used in relation not only to written information but also to other documents and materials, including photographic images, published or unpublished. Journalists argue that without means to protect their confidential sources, their ability, for example, to lay bare the corruption of public officials would be seriously impaired.
So strong is the need to protect their sources, that many journalists are bound by professional codes of ethics from revealing them. Many have depended upon such codes in courts of law when faced with orders to reveal the identity of their sources. Despite the clear advantages of ensuring that journalists protect the anonymity of their sources, situations arise when the interests of journalists clash with other powerful interests and rights. Often, the clash relates to the administration of justice, commonly where information is relevant to a criminal or civil proceeding.
Besides, Cameroonian journalism suffers from divisions due to the dual-language and cultural system, and due to the differences in how journalists from the state and the private media are treated. In this context, issues of access to information, especially from government institutions, are even more difficult.
This, therefore, creates an asymmetry of information in the press and the country. As Tanjong, Muluh, and Ngwa (1998) describe it, the division within the news industry exists within the context of a rift between journalists working for the state-owned media and those in the private sector.
1.2Statement of the problem
The media in Cameroon is constrained by a restrictive legal regime. Journalists reporting on sensitive issues or subjects risk police questioning, lawsuits, and extrajudicial detention. As violence has increased in the Far North region due to the terrorists Boko Haram and the South West and North West regions of Cameroon known as the “Anglophone Crisis”, the government has focused its scrutiny on journalists covering those regions.
Although the preamble to Cameroon’s 1996 constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press, these rights are not respected in practice. Defamation remains both a civil and a criminal offence, drawing fines and up to six months in prison.
The burden of proof is on the defendant in defamation cases, truth is not a defence, and the penal code grants public figures additional “special protections”. The 1990 law on Social Communication ended prepublication censorship, but Article 17 of the 1996 amended laws gives officials the power to ban newspapers that are deemed a threat to public order. Media regulators continue to suspend journalists and outlets for criticizing the government and journalists equally face arrests, prosecutions, and the threat of violence in connection with their work.
1.3 Research Questions
1.3.1 General Research Question
- Should journalists always protect their sources of information?
1.3.2 Specific research questions
2. What are the sources of news available to a reporter?
3. Do journalists have to reveal their sources even in times of crimes?
1.4 Objectives of the study
1.4.1 General Objective
Journalism is effective when the press is free and press freedom in Cameroon has been criticized by journalism practitioners. Hence, the main objective of this study is to understand the trend of press freedom in Cameroon with a case study in Buea.
1.4.2 Specific Objectives
- To analyze the security of journalists and their sources of information without future repercussions after publication
- To find out if journalists should reveal their sources when accused of crimes and sanctions
- To figure out who carries the responsibilities during sanctions or fines. Whether it is the journalist, reporter, or both
- 5 Hypothesis
1.5.1 General hypothesis
Cameroon does not practice press freedom as the system claims
1.5.2 Specific hypothesis
Journalists and their sources are not free from repercussions and sanctions. Journalists should not violate journalism ethics by revealing their sources Journalists solely carry the sanctions and fines in times of criminal accusations.
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