Cameroon Communication Minister’s Ban on Sky One Radio is Arbitrary

Global Conscience Initiative calls on the Minister of Communication to review his decision and remove the ban on Sky One Radio Station in Yaounde, Cameroon. Communication’s Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary accuses the radio station of “pretending to solve social problems” after the radio in one of its programmes solicited support to assist a HIV-positive woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo get back home.

The Communication Ministry in a first letter to Sky One Radio ordered for a suspension of the programme, The Tribunal, from the air waves and subsequently ordered the the presenter of the programme, Duval Lebel Eballe, be fired. The Communications Ministry subsequently held talks with the authorities of Sky One Radio that culminated in the changing of the name of the programme. However, the Ministry wanted the complete removal of the programme and not its christening, and thus moved to ban the Radio station for “recurring violation of legal and administrative regulation of media laws”.

While Global Conscience appreciates the Communication Ministries move to dialogue with Sky One Radio on the issue, GCI maintains that the decision to close the radio station is extreme and amounts to stifling the freedom of expression guaranteed in the preamble of the constitution of Cameroon.

GCI Chief Executive Officer Samba Churchill said the Communication Ministry is playing the role of both referee and judge in this case and that the decision lacked due process of law that should be used to regulate media conduct and abuse of free speech.

“In the interest of the law and of freedom of expression, the Communication Ministry should have taken the matter to the Cameroon Communication Council and, if it fails, to the courts that have the competence to determine if the conduct and practice of Sky One Radio violated any laws”, Samba said, adding that the closure of the radio station by the Minister leaves the impression that Cameroon is not a state of law.

The human rights activist acknowledges that Journalists can, and do err in their practice GCI is therefore calling on the Ministry of Communication to remove the ban on Sky One radio and take judicial procedures to sanction the station for any defaulting practices so that justice is not only seen as served in Cameroon. Failing this, GCI urges the authorities of Sky One to challenge the ban before the administrative bench of the supreme court as required by law.