Monday, March 2, 2020

Freedom: Emmanuel Macron demands the release of Paul Chouta

The Cameroonian president and his French counterpart spoke on the phone yesterday. According to French diplomatic sources, Macron pleaded for the release of certain prisoners including two journalists, namely Martinez Zogo and Paul Chouta. It is to be hoped that this request from the French president will find a favorable response from Biya which will lead to the release of these two colleagues who have done nothing worse.

Freedom of communication is governed in Cameroon by law number 90 of December 19, 1990 which provides in article 1 that freedom of the press guaranteed by the constitution is exercised within the framework of the provisions of this law. The media have always operated with in mind the limits set by articles 60 and 87 of the aforementioned law which define the offenses likely to be committed and the consequent criminal sanctions. The advent of ICT has revolutionized the practice of press freedom and increased the risk of communication drifts. The law stipulates that freedom of expression and opinion can be exercised on any communication medium and in particular on social networks. Communication by electronic means is free even if everything is not allowed. 

Martinez Zogo and Paul Chouta were arrested and imprisoned in violation of the rules. They have been without judgment ever since. Meanwhile, those who violate the electoral code are still at large. Those who call for the elimination of English speakers are at large. Those who promote hatred and tribalism are not worried. Yes they are on the safe side.

Thus, I think that asking the President of the Republic, Paul Biya to release Paul Chouta and Martinez Zozo, Emmanuel Macron has done a great service to media professionals. Yes it protects us from ourselves. And I retain from Paul Biya the image of the one who brought democracy to Cameroon. It must do everything to preserve this achievement. 

To men of the media, you would always like to remember this thought by Daniel Salles who said that while freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, it cannot however be exercised without limits and is limited by the law.