Friday, January 31, 2020

Elections: 'journalists fire on the buttocks', the 'amba boys' attack everything! Eye witness report

Journalists in struggling English-speaking regions of Cameroon say separatists are attacking them because of critical reporting and the refusal to broadcast rebel propaganda. Media reports say separatist intimidation is escalating as Cameroon prepares for local and parliamentary elections, which the rebels have vowed to end.

Stone FM community radio station in northwest Cameroon's Ndop city stopped broadcasting on Monday. 

Director and presenter Mbuotna Zacks Anabi said gunmen stormed the station on Sunday evening, shooting in the air before setting the building on fire. 

Speaking through a messaging app, he said the alleged separatists had left nothing. 

“Before burning, they first looted the radio equipment. Then on January 27, 2020, they torched the radio house and my personal home - perhaps because I was against the broadcast of their messages. I campaigned for schools to return [reopen], ”said Anabi. 

Cameroonian separatists see public schools and teachers of the French-speaking majority as legitimate targets in the English-speaking west and prey on those who refuse to close.

Anabi said that after the attack, he fled to the English-speaking city of Bamenda, 60 kilometers away, and station personnel in 13 villages went into hiding. 

The rebels did not claim responsibility for the attack. However, on social media, they threatened anyone supporting the February 9 elections in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. 

The separatists are fighting for an independent English-speaking state and have promised to suspend all elections organized by the Cameroonian authorities with a French majority.

Antoinette Melo, a 24-year-old teacher from Ndop, says that without Stone FM, residents of the city have little access to news and information. 

"It was the only radio station that informed us and in recent days we have had no information. It is difficult because we are preparing for the elections and we want to hear what the candidates are saying, "said Melo.

"Attack on democracy" 

Jude Viban, president of the Cameroonian Association of English-speaking journalists, notes that Stone FM is not the first station targeted by the rebels. 

He added that the separatists had attacked journalists and the media in the English-speaking regions for refusing to broadcast their propaganda. 

"We call on the authorities of the country to ensure that they investigate and to bring the culprits to book and we also want to let those who attack journalists and those who attack the media know that this is sad for our democracy. One of the fundamental values ​​of democracy is freedom of the press and each time a journalist or a press house is attacked, it is an attack on democracy, "he said. 

Viban said journalists denounce separatist intimidation for simply asking people to vote in the elections.

The government has repeated that it will protect all citizens and calls on the public to report any suspected rebels. 

Stone FM is the third radio station to have been attacked in recent weeks in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. 

The others were community radio stations in the northwest town of Oku and the southwest town of Kumba. 

Since the breakout of the separatist conflict in 2017, Cameroonian journalists have complained about rebel abuse and state security. Nearly 30 Cameroonian journalists say they have been arrested or threatened during their report on the conflict. Several were charged with terrorism before the charges were later dropped. 

Journalist Macmillan Ambe was kidnapped by separatist fighters in the city of Bamenda in February 2019 after criticizing their appeal to families not to send their children to school. He was released unharmed a day later.

In March, police arrested the president of the Cameroon Community Media Network, Geraldine Fobang, for conducting a peaceful demonstration for press freedom. She said that the police intimidated her before her release after a few hours. 

Military police arrested television journalist Mimi Mefo in 2018 and accused her of publishing false information and terrorism. The charges were only dropped after the intervention of Cameroonian President Paul Biya. 

Former Guardian Post journalist Amos Fofung fled to the United States in 2017 after being arrested with three other journalists for allegedly supporting the rebels. He stays in the United States 

The Reporters Without Borders 2019 press freedom index ranks Cameroon 131st in the world, a drop of two positions since 2018.