Cameroon: Minister Lifts Ban On Equinoxe, Magic FM

Regulation & Policy

Following national and international pressure, Communication Minister, Jean Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, lifted a ban he slammed on Equinoxe Radio and Television and Magic FM in February. The Minister announced the decision during a question and answer plenary at the National Assembly on July 4.While announcing the lift of the ban, Biyiti Bi Essam urged the authorities of the media organs to do well to respect the regulations in force.

He told them not to mistake government's act of magnanimity as a blank cheque to continue to strive in anarchy. Biyiti Bi Essam had come under scathing criticisms from MPs for surreptitiously restoring press censorship in the country.

The MP for Wouri constituency, Hon. Jean Jacques Ekindi had asked the Minister to explain why he maintained his ban on Equinoxe Radio and Television and Magic FM despite the fact that government professes press freedom. The MP for the Progressive Movement held that the Minister had dealt a devastating blow on the democratisation process in Cameroon by closing down the media houses for four months.

In reaction, the Minister argued that the ban on the media houses happened because they did not respect the administrative regulations in force. He reiterated that Equinoxe had not paid its licence fees.

Earlier on, the proprietor of Equinoxe Radio and TV stations, Severin Tchounkeu, had paid FCFA 40 million as advanced payment of the FCFA 100 million stipulated by the law to obtain an audiovisual license, The Post gathered.

It was in the wake of massive anti-constitutional amendment protests that swept across the country. Meanwhile, some employees of Equinoxe have heaved a sigh of relief at the news.

"It is with a feeling of satisfaction that government has finally withdrawn its decision. We considered the decision obnoxious and a travesty of the basic principles of freedom of expression. It is regrettable that it took so long for the decision to be reversed," said Solomon Amabo of Equinoxe Radio.

Other Equinoxe reporters, who preferred anonymity, urged the government to review the issue of administrative tolerance and clearly state the amount of taxes and deadlines for payment in order not to embarrass media house operators.

They stated that before the ban, Equinoxe management owed them two months salary arrears, which was further compounded by the five months of dormancy."Some of us had to attach ourselves to other media houses in order to survive," one of them said.

The Post Beau 7 July 2008