Cameroon's government summarily closed a leading private television station on supposed regulatory violations.
The station in Douala was distinguished for its leading coverage of a national debate over a bid by President Paul Biya to scrap a constitutional clause that limits presidential terms.
Two police commanders backed by a squad of riot police forced Equinoxe Télévision off the air and sealed its studios, the station's editor in chief, Albert Yondjeu, told CPJ. Police gave the station a copy of an order from Communications Minister
Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam. The order stated that the station was operating illegally because it had not paid a 100 million CFA francs (US$227,000) broadcast licensing fee, according to Equinoxe Director General Séverin Tchounkeu.
Only three private television stations, Canal2 International, Spectrum TV, and TV+ have operated with official licenses in Cameroon since last year, but the government has allowed the rest of the handful of stations, unable to afford the hefty
licensing fees, to operate under a regime of administrative tolerance . [This only applies of course when the station toes the government line].
Local journalists say they believe the move was linked to Equinoxe's pointed coverage of the heated debate splitting supporters and opponents of Biya, who has been in power since 1982.
Cameroon police in the capital, Yaounde, today forced a popular radio station off the air and confiscated its equipment over commentary critical of the government during a call-in program.
Magic FM is the third broadcaster summarily closed by authorities within a week in response to critical coverage of public demonstrations fueled by a rise in prices and President Paul Biya’s bid to seek another term in office.
Editor-in-Chief Roger Kiyeck told CPJ that officers accused the station of “broadcasting irresponsibly,” and inciting tensions in connection with commentary critical of the government during his morning call-in program, Magic Attitude .
Magic FM, a leading station in Yaounde that partners with the U.S. government-funded Voice of America, is known for its pointed political coverage.
The closure of Magic FM followed last week’s back-to-back closures of leading broadcasters Equinoxe Television, and its sister station Radio Equinoxe, in connection with their pointed coverage of Cameroon’s national crisis.
10th May 2008
The British High Commissioner to Cameroon, H.E. Syd Maddicott, has vehemently condemned the ban government slammed on the Equinoxe Radio and Television in Douala and Magic FM radio in Yaounde: The cancelling of licenses of three broadcasting
stations is an unwelcome move. Some have alleged that the stations in question were closed down simply because their editorial line opposed the constitutional amendment. If true this is a serious problem. The press cannot be truly free if they
are only free to agree with those in power.
Cameroon authorities have lifted a ban on three private broadcasters summarily closed in connection with their critical coverage in February, but police are withholding equipment seized from one station, according to local journalists and news
Equinoxe Télévision, sister radio station Radio Equinoxe, and Magic FM were authorized to return to air on July 4 by Communications Minister Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam. However, police continued to hold the broadcasting equipment
of Magic FM, a popular station and partner of international U.S. broadcaster Voice of America.
All three stations were distinguished for their pointed political coverage of a national debate on constitutional reform marred by violence, according to local journalists.
We are relieved that Equinoxe Télévision, Radio Equinoxe, and Magic FM have finally been allowed to return to air, said Tom Rhodes, CPJ's Africa program coordinator: We call on the government to abandon such crude tactics
of censorship like these arbitrary closures of media outlets, and ask that authorities to ensure that all of Magic FM's equipment is returned immediately.