Saturday, June 27, 2015

CSOs Push for Integration of Forest People’s Rights into National Laws

Yaounde, Cameroon—According to the World Bank, Billions of Dollars are lost annually due to corruption resulting from the failure to collect taxes and royalties on legally sanctioned timber harvests. The financial institution holds that such loses of state revenue prevent the timber-rich Congo Basin governments from realizing development objectives.
Poor and disadvantaged indigenous communities experts say suffer the most from poor governance of the forest sector as they are denied active participation in decision-making-processes concerning their land and resources.
Indigenous forest people do not take part in decisions concerning their forest
The Congo Basin VPA Implementation-Championing Forest People’s Rights and Participation Project was thus initiated to ensure that the rights of the rights of the about 70 million people who depend on the Congo Basin forest for livelihood are recognized and protected.
The project manager, Dr Aurelian Mbzibain explained that it seeks to contribute to strong inclusive Voluntary Partnership Accord, VPA process that guide and frame effective implementation of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in countries of the Congo Basin.
As part of the project implementation process, some members of parliament, the civil society organizations, international experts and representatives of indigenous people from member countries of the Congo Basin and the Ivory Coast met in a sub regional workshop from June 22-23 to seek ways of influencing national legislations that take into account the rights and concerns of indigenous forest people.
The workshop was jointly organised by the Centre for International Development and Training, CIDT, based in the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom, the Forest Peoples’ Programme, FFP, and the Community and Forest Platform (CFP) Cameroon.
The British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Brian Oulley urged the participants not to limit themselves to theory but come up with concrete proposals that will help both parties.
Launched in March 2014, the Congo Basin VPA Implementation-Championing Forest people’s rights and Participation Project will span thirty (30) months with funding from the European Union and the UK Department for International Development.

CSOs-Parliament collaboration

At the end of the workshop, representatives from Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ivory Coast briefed the press on the collaboration that exists between civil society organizations and parliamentarians regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous forest communities.
The revelation by Hon Raymond Adouma, member of parliament of the national assembly of the Central African Republic that the country is on course to integrate the concerns of the indigenous forest communities into the new country constitution was described as a model that should be emulated. This will be done thanks to the collaboration between civil society organizations and lawmakers of the war torn country, the MP said.
The Ivory Coast, according to Hon Sangare Yacomba, is currently working with civil society organizations in its negotiations with the European Union towards signing the VPA/FLEGT.
“This move will help preserve and sustainably manage the remaining forest. Most of the forest in the Ivory Coast was cut down during the militaro-political crisis of 2002 and the post electoral violence of 2010”, the MP revealed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

China To Clean Its Exploitation Of African Forests

Yaounde Cameroon—Like other Western Economies, China is interested in Africa’s forests. China’s imports of African timber and investments in land use in forest areas are both increasing, and China is now the top importer of timber from several African countries.
Wood felled in plantations was illegally sold in China according to Greenpeace

However, some timber exporting countries of the Congo basin like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have signed an agreement; the Voluntary Partnership Accord (VPA) with the European Union as part of the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT)  that brings together demand-side and supply-side to combat illegal logging.
This agreement with the EU, according to some observers is indirectly causing trade between China and these African countries in the forest sector to be increasingly illegal.
Experts say the illegal timber trade between China and Africa is facilitated by the fact that the Asian economic giant doesn’t have a strong legislation to prevent the trade.
But according to Samuel Nguiffo, secretary general of the Centre for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon co-organizer of the China-Africa forest governance learning platform, it is not possible to affirm that all the timber from these countries to China is illegal. The platform is a multi-stakeholder dialogue that brings together African, Chinese and international stakeholders discussing Chinese trade and investment impacts on Africa’s forest.
The second event of the multi-stakeholder platform took place in Yaounde from June 22-25. The first such event took place in Beijing, China in 2013.
“What we can say is that most timber illegally produced goes to China, and the reason is that we don’t have the same kind of legality standards at the entrance into China like what we have in Europe for instance. The situation now is that if you have high standard products, they are likely to go to Europe, and if you have low standard products, they are likely to go to China; that is what we want to avoid”, Nguiffo said.
Since 2013, China has been investing in Africa through the platform, but not without criticisms. Last year, Greenpeace Africa alleged that large quantities of wood felled when forest land is converted for other uses are illegally reaching international markets in China.
“By exploring the sensitive issues such as illegal and unsustainable logging, the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform has already created trust and political will to confront these challenges”, James Mayers, head of the natural resources group of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said.
Africa’s current timber exports to China are estimated at 75 per cent. “China is increasingly getting involved in land use investment projects in Africa in other sectors like mining, agribusiness, and infrastructure. All these things have effects on forest land and people’s livelihood associated with that”, Mayers said.
“In 2014, out of 700.000 cubic meters of logs exported from Cameroon, 500.000 cubic meters went to china and only 200.000 cubic meters went to Europe”, Nguiffo revealed.
The technical adviser in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, Joseph Levodo Tsengue, said China remains a good economic partner of Africa. He said Chinese investments in Cameroon cut across several sectors including forestry.
The platform was developed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), WWF, the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information at the Chinese Academy of Forest, the Global Environment Institute (GEI) and African partners from Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG), an international alliance that promotes policymaking that serves forest-dependent communities and sustainability.
According to Dr Chen Yong of the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information (RIFPI), State Forest Administration (SFA) of China, the platform is a big opportunity both for China and Africa.
“In recent years we have seen an increase of closer relationship between China and Africa in the field of forestry as well as trade. Currently the trade volume between China and Africa is 200 Billion; we estimate this figure to double to 400 Billion till 2020. Currently, the direct investment into Africa from China is at  25 Billion Dollars, we estimate this figure grow to 200 Billion to double this means that the close link between China and Africa is not just a big opportunity for Africa, but also a big opportunity for China”
On the sidelines of the second meeting of the platform, stakeholders visited Cameroon’s new deep sea port in Kribi in the South region of the country and surrounding infrastructure, which was built with Chinese investment.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Friday, June 19, 2015

MTN Inaugurates Two Proximity Service Centres in Yaounde

Yaounde, Cameroon—The mobile telephone network, MTN has inaugurated two new service centres in the Bastos and Ngousso neighbourhoods in Yaounde. The two customer touch points were inaugurated on Wednesday June 17, 2015 by the governor of the Centre Region, Otto Joseph Wilson in the presence of the chief Executive Officer of MTN Cameroon, Philisiwe Sibiya and members of the executive management team.
Governor cuts ribbon at Ngousso service centre

In 2013, MTN launched an extensive program to multiply its direct sales points throughout the national territory with the aim of relieving congestion in its traditional service centres.
“Through this program we seek to strengthen MTN’s presence in the suburbs, in order to be closer to our customers, so as to offer them unique and personalized services at all times”, MTN Cameroon CEO, Philisiwe Sibiya said.
The leader of the Cameroonian telecommunications market today counts eighteen(18) proximity service centres nation wide; eight (8) of which have been created within the last two years.
Ngousso customer touch point has already received hundreds
The VIP Bastos and Ngousso service centres bring to five (5), the number of MTN customer touch points in the nation’s capital.
“With these five (5) service centres, we will significantly ameliorate the quality of service offered to our clients in Yaounde and provide them with an exceptional and unforgettable customer experience at every interaction with MTN”, Sibiya said.
The governor of the Centre Region, Otto Joseph Wilson said MTN is recognized today Cameroonians as a success story of the privatization policy led by the government of Cameroon since 1995.
“We note with satisfaction the strengthening of the positive and constructive relationship between MTN and the government, the republic and the people of Cameroon, proof of a strong and fruitful public-private partnership”, the governor said.
The Centre regional chief executive was delighted that the inauguration of two new MTN service centres in Yaounde has not only brought joy to subscribers of the political capital, but also that it is clear testimony of the importance the government of Cameroon attaches to public-private partnership to enhance sustainable growth and development.
“It is also recognition of MTN’s efforts to drive the local telecommunications market and revolutionize communication methods in Cameroon, for the benefit of the millions of people of this great nation”, he said.
With a capacity to receive more than 500 customers daily, the MTN VIP Bastos service centre has already catered for the communication needs of close to 17,000 customers ever since it went operational on September 2, 2014, according to MTN Cameroon’s corporate communications manager, Massey Njiti Bongang.
Massey said the Ngousso service centre which has been operational since November 5, 2014 pending official inauguration, has already served over 32,000 inhabitants of the Ngousso, Soa, Eleveur, Omnisport and Santa Barbara neighbourhoods.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nkambe Council Accounts Under Examination

Nkambe, Cameroon—The 2014 administrative and management accounts of the Nkambe council in the Donga Mantung Division of the Northwest Region will come under examination at a council session to that effect this Friday June 12, 2015.
The Binka market shed is one of the council's realisation for 2014

At the time of this report, we were reliably informed that over thirty-five (35) of the forty-one (41) councilors are already in the chief town of the Donga Mantung Division for the session.
The Senior Divisional Officer for Donga Mantung, Ngone Ndodemesappe Bernard who was in Ndu yesterday for the same exercise would preside over deliberations at the session that has been slated for 10am.
During the session, the council administration is expected to brief the supervisory authority, councilors on the management of resources; what came in, from where and how the stores accountant assets were managed in 2014.
The mayor is also expected to present the various projects realized by the council in 2014.
The session is sanctioned by resolutions that are documented-councilors adopt to authenticate that resources that came into the council were properly managed.
The role (reports) of the finance and works committees of the council are usually very important at such sessions, experts say.
Analysts say the session is one of the rare moments where councilors have the right to question the mayor on his management.
We will bring you details about the session as we get them.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaounde

Monday, June 8, 2015

Parliamentarians Summoned for ‘Contract-Chasing Session’

Yaounde, Cameroon—Members of the Senate and the National Assembly have been convened for the second ordinary session for the 2015 scheduled to begin this Wednesday June10. In two separate releases from the legislative institutions, members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament will meet at 11am while those of the senate, the upper house will meet later in the afternoon of June 10 at the Ngoa-Ekelle glass house and the Yaounde conference centre respectively.
Hon Cavaye

The June session according to political affairs observers is one of the most relaxed amongst the ordinary session of a legislative year. It is traditionally reserved for the examination and adoption of bills submitted to the National Assembly and the senate by government ministers.
Since the coming to stage of the Senate some two years ago,  bills adopted by the National Assembly have been forwarded to the upper house where competent commissions have had to ‘strictly’ check  before moving up the ladder for promulgation into law by the President of the Republic.
While the heads of the two legislative institutions would in their separate opening speeches, review the activities of both houses during the parliamentary recess period, it would likely touch on the state of relations between the executive and legislative arms of the State plus, ongoing war against terrorist group Boko Haram.
During the last session, the senate announced a FCFA 100Million donation as part of their contribution to the ongoing war efforts against Boko Haram. Observers are of the opinion that the donation was simply rhetorical as nothing has been heard about it since then. The national assembly on its part donated the sum of over CFA 45 million F as support to the fight.
Members of parliament would also be exchanging notes from the field after the recess period that permitted some to visit their constituencies and commune with their electorates. Though critics say some of them visit their constituencies only during elections and come back only after five years.
Senator Niat
The opening plenary is likely going to be a joyous moment at the lower house of parliament as they would be celebrating the election of some its members into the bureau of the Pan- African Parliament.
Hon Roger Nkodo Ndang, CPDM MP for Nyong & Mfoumou and secretary at the bureau of the national assembly who until recently was vice president of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was elected president of the South African based legislative house. Hon Njingum Musa, another CPDM MP from Ngoketunjia was also elected chairperson of the committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs of the PAP.
The new president and chair person of the Monetary and financial affairs of the South African based Pan-African parliament were last week received in separate audiences by the speaker of the national Assembly, Hon Cavaye yeguie Djibrill and the president of the Senate, Senator Marcel Niat Njifenji.
During the last session, the lawmakers, besides the election of the bureaus of both houses, adopted seven bills on various subjects such as the economy, security and the three-year growth-acceleration emergency plan initiated by the head of state, Paul Biya.
The second ordinary session of the 2015 legislative year will be opening at threshold of the much trumpeted digital switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting in Cameroon. Cameroonians households are expected to replace their analogue TV sets with flat-panel screens or get decoders before or on the 16th of this month.
Defending a bill on digitization of Cameroon last March at the national assembly, the Minister of communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary the digital switch over will go effective from June 17 this year.
It is expected that peoples’ representatives would call up the communication boss again during this session to brief them on the process which he announced will begin in Douala and Yaounde before gradually extending to other areas.
The ordinary session both at the national assembly and the senate is expected to last 30 days.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Herakles Farms Abandons Cameroon Concessions

Mundemba, Cameroon—Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) a Cameroonian subsidiary of the American agro-industrial compnay, Herakles Farms has abandoned all operations in the Mundemba and Toko Subdivisions respectively and in Ndian Division of the Southwest region.

According to a report by Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), published by Forest People Program (FPP), the decision was announced to the few remaining workers of Fabe and Lipenja I, Batanga, nurseries on May 29, 2015.

“Workers confirmed that the announcement was made by a man who presented himself as the new CEO of the company. The workers said the reason given for suspending operations was to enable Herakles to intensify planting of palms in the Nguti area before returning to Mundemba and Toko concessions in 2017/2018”, the report reads.

In 2009 Herakles Farms/ SGSOC received a concession of 73,000 hectares of rainforest in the Southwest region to be replaced by oil plam plantations despite locals, national and international NGOs’ outcries against the environmental threat of the palm plantations.

The US agro-industrial claimed to invest 300 billion francs CFA and improve the life of indigenuous people of the project area.

The presidential decree leasing the 73,000 ha concession to the American firm according to the FPP report demanded the company fulfills certain conditions which were not met, notably in the development of social facilities, conducting an environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in the new concession, and payment of land rents to the tune of 200,000,000 FCFA.

“Treasury and local council officials have confirmed to SEFE that Herakles is yet to pay land rents demanded in the Presidential decrees of November 2013, yet are still operating in the area, in clear violation of the presidential order” the report reads.

Workers Laid Off
The SEFE report reveals that following the abandonment, workers were awarded certificates of appreciation and asked to go to the Divisional Office of Labour in Mundemba and collect money without indicating the amounts.

“Workers were left unclear if these represented wages for the month of May or compensation for the entire period they have worked in the company”

Prior to the withdrawal from the Mundemba and Toko concessions, the company laid off its managers and personnel at its Limbe office. SEFE sources say the company has shut down its Limbe office for good.

It’s not the first time Herakles Farms is laying off its workers. Some of the workers according to the report said they are disheartened because they were recently recalled to work and were laid off again a few days later.

The Mundemba and Toko concession is located astride the Iconic Korup National Park and Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve. The latter being a complex watershed formation with all the freshwater from it draining into the Korup Park.

SEFE officials say establishing a huge palm oil plantation in this area would have brought disastrous pollution resulting from pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides and sewage disposal; all affecting the health of animals in the Korup Park that depend on the water.

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Friday, June 5, 2015

NCC Bites Again, Suspends Six Media Houses

Yaounde, Cameroon—The Cameroon media watchdog, the National Communication Council, has made public the outcome of its 10th ordinary session held on April 30, 2015. Below is the full release signed by the vice chair person, Peter Essoka.
Peter Essoka, vice president of the NCC

The Vice-president of the National Communication Council informs promoters, media professionals and the general public that on 30 April 2015, this autonomous regulatory body held its 10th ordinary session, in compliance with the provisions of Decree No 2012/038 of 23 January 2012 reorganising the NCC.
The agenda of the proceedings focused mainly on preparations for the 2015 commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day and ten (10) case reviews. The following decisions were taken after the reviews:
1/- In Afriland First Bank’s case against “Le Renard”,
The complaining financial institution petitioned the NCC against the print media organ named “Le Renard” for publishing unfounded accusations that may be prejudicial to its image in its 038th issue of 19 February 2015.
The Council, after establishing the responsibility of the newspaper’s publisher given the publication of unfounded claims, which neither fulfilled the requirements of verification nor balance in the treatment of information, separately suspended “Le Renard” and its publisher from practicing the journalism profession in Cameroon for a period of six (06) months for misconduct which constitutes violations of professional ethics in mass communication.
2/- Concerning Pamol Plantation Ltd’s case against “Cameroon Herald”,
Following the publication of unfounded accusations of mismanagement and embezzlement in its 090th issue against the Interim General Manager of Pamol Plantations Plc and certain senior public figures,
The Council, after establishing the responsibility of the publisher of the newspaper in question for not respecting the requirements of verification and balance, separately suspended “Cameroon Herald” and its publisher from practicing the journalism profession in Cameroon for a period of six (06) months for misconduct which constitutes violations of professional ethics in mass communication.
3/- In the NCC’s case against “Afrique Media”,
The Council:
-      Based on the programmes “Le mérite panafricain” and “le débat panafricain” broadcast respectively on the aforementioned television station on 1, 8, 20, 27 February and 16 March 2015 during which certain guests leveled baseless accusations and incitement to hatred likely to impair the image and dignity of personalities, institutions and foreign countries;
-      Specifying that the choice of guests and the conduct of television programmes are the responsibilities of their presenters;
-      Taking into account repeated professional slips of a similar nature which prompted it to call the attention of “Afrique Media’s” management to the risks involved in broadcasting live programmes with contributions from guests, some of whose spur-of-the-moment declarations can cause irreparable damage,
-      Recalling that pledges to respect professional ethics made by the management of Afrique Media after they were first summoned before the NCC were never followed by action,
-      Noting that the generalization of the aforementioned professional breaches have resulted in detrimental confusion between free speech and the violation of the dignity of moral and physical persons, suspended Afrique Media for a period of one month, and Magne Tada Juliana and Mohammed Bachir Ladan , presenters of the aforementioned programmes for six (06) months each from practicing journalism in Cameroon for repeated professional misconduct characterized by a lack of control of the aforementioned programmes permitting the guests to make unjustified accusations likely to impair the image and honour of personalities, institutions and foreign countries.

4/- In the NCC’s case against “LTM”,
The Council, which reproached Awilo, presenter of the programme “Town Cryer” on LTM for making an unjustified accusation concerning the war between Cameroon and the Islamist sect Boko Haram which is likely to impair the honour and dignity of a foreign country, separately suspended the programme “Town Cryer” and its presenter from practicing journalism in Cameroon for a period of three (03) months for broadcasting a baseless accusation which constitutes violation of professional ethics in mass communication.
5/- In Martinez Zogo’s case against “Climat Social”,
Mr. Martinez Zogo, journalist at “Amplitude FM” filed a petition to the NCC against the newspaper “Climat Social”, following the publication in its 0061st issue of unjustified accusations which impinged on his person and dignity.
The Council,
After confirming the responsibility of “Climat Social’s” publisher pertaining to his media organ’s non respect for the professional requirements of verification and balance resulting in the publication of unjustified accusations against the petitioner, separately suspended “Climat Social” and its publisher from practicing journalism in Cameroon for a period of six (06) months for misconduct which constitutes violation of professional ethics in mass communication.

6/- Concerning Oswald Baboke’s case against “Royal FM”,
Mr. Oswald Baboke, Technical Adviser at the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic, filed a petition to the NCC against “Royal FM” after the presenter of the programme “le débat républicain” broadcast on 2 February 2015 on this radio station, declared that the petitioner embezzled the sum of 15,000, 000 FCFA, which Cameroon’s First Lady allegedly sent to Mr. Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip.
The Council,
After establishing the responsibility of “Royal FM” and that of the presenter of the contested programme for failing to respect the two-fold requirement of verification and balance in the treatment of information which led to the broadcast of an unfounded accusation likely to violate the petitioner’s dignity, separately suspended “Royal FM” for one (01) month and Mr. Martin Marcelin Ateba, presenter of the programme “le débat républicain” for three (03) months from practicing journalism in Cameroon, for misconduct which constitutes violation of professional ethics in mass communication.
7/- In Vincent Nji Ndumu’s case against “Vanguard”,
Mr. Vincent Nji Ndumu, Governmnt Delegate to the Bamenda City Council, filed a petition to the NCC against the print media organ “Vanguard” following the publication of accusations of mismanagement in the exercise of his duties in its 120th issue of 9 February 2015.
The Council,
After establishing the responsibility of the publisher of the newspaper in question for breaching the dual requirement of verification and balance in the treatment of information which resulted in the publication of unfounded claims against the petitioner, separately suspended “Vanguard” and its publisher for six (06) months from practicing the journalism profession in Cameroon, for misconduct which constitutes violation of professional ethics in mass communication.
8/- In the cases between Mr. Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication and “Mutations”, “Quotidien Emergence” and “Le Messager”, following:
-      The publication of information concerning a photograph of the Head of State bowing before the remains of soldiers who died in the war front posted on the Presidency of the Republic’s website on 09 March 2015,
-      And the republication by these newspapers of an article about the health condition of Cameroon’s presidential couple originally published on the website of the “Le Monde” newspaper,
The Council,
After a debate which took Members’ contradictory positions into account, decided to defer its deliberation on the three aforementioned cases.

For the Council,
The Vice-President

Peter Essoka

National Press Cards Commission Chairperson To Be Named Today

Yaounde, Cameroon—The newly appointed members of the National Press Cards Commission of Cameroon will hold a session of right this Friday June 5, 2015 in Yaounde.
Tabe is one of the two female voices in the commission

The nine-member commission, sources at the Ministry of Communication say, would have only one item on its agenda; propose names to the Prime Minister, one of who the Premier will appoint as the group’s chair.
Article 3 of Prime Ministerial Decree N° 2002/2170/PM of December 9, 2002 which lays down conditions for the issuing of press cards, states that the commission’s chair is appointed by a Prime Ministerial decree, following proposals from its members.
The press cards commission is charged with defining who a journalist is and awards press cards to journalists and journalism support staff. Set up in the early 2000s, the commission slipped into inactivity for years following disagreements over its decisions.
When, under the aegis of Richard Ekoka Sam Ewande (former director of Radio Cameroon), its members deliberated on press cards for the first time, a popular comic Tchop Tchop who at the time worked for Equinoxe Radio in Douala, was among the first persons to be awarded press cards. The then chairperson had once served as director of Equinoxe Radio.

Only three Anglophones, just two women!

Of the nine members appointed by Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary to the commission last May 18 there are three English-speaking journalists; Chief Zachee Nzoh Ngandembou, CEO of Eden Media Group and president of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association of Cameroon (NEPAC), Tabe Enonchong of the Cameroon Radio Television and Yerima Kini Nsom, Yaounde bureau chief of The Post Newspaper.
However, critics say the commission is merely one of government’s limbs because only two of the nine members, Ngandembou and Kini, are from the private media.
Also, the fact that government Ministries are represented in the committee, according to most observers, makes the body look like an organ of the ruling CPDM.
The Ministry of Communication, for example, is represented in the team by Dr. Mabou Mabou, a fervent supporter of the ruling party. The Ministries of Territorial Administration and Justice will be represented by Irenée Yves Assala and Benoît Placide Mevoua respectively.
The commission will begin deliberations when its president would have been appointed. According to the law, the commission holds ordinary sessions at least once on a quarterly basis upon convocation. The commission can also meet in an extraordinary sessions if its chairman or two thirds of its members deem it necessary.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Thursday, June 4, 2015

RRI Cameroon Presents 2015 Action Plan to Media Partners

Douala, Cameroon—Some  journalists drawn from the public and private media have been briefed on the 2015 strategic intervention and communication plan of the Cameroon coalition of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). This was during a two day capacity building workshop that held in Douala from May 27-29.
Participants pose with RRI Associate Africa Program Officer

RRI is a coalition of civil society organizations that supports the developing world’s Indigenous Peoples and local communities in forests and other rural areas, helping them to secure and realize the rights to own, control, and benefit from the natural resources they have depended on for generations.
According to organizers of the workshop, their aims were to improve understanding of media men on the issues of security of land rights of local and indigenous communities in the ongoing reforms in Cameroon, identify potential opportunities that can be used to address the problems raised by the expansion of investment projects and agro industries and build a communication task force on issues related to natural resources in Cameroon in connection with the rights of communities among others.
According to Samuel Nguiffo secretary general of the centre for environment and development (CED), lead organization of the coalition of RRI Cameroon, it is important for civil society organizations and the media to work together on issues of land and forest rights of indigenous people.
The workshop which was the second in a series also permitted attendees to develop a roadmap whose implementation will benefit from the support of the media to make wide publicity. Attendees also constituted a task force to disseminate news on natural resources and the rights of communities.
The first of such a workshop took place in Kribi in 2014 where coalition presented it activity plan for 2015. Participants at the first workshop visited some areas indigenous people’s rights to land and forest are being threatened by the implantation of some agro industrial projects.
At the second in Douala, member organizations of the coalition like CED, REPAR,REFACOF, IUCN among others also presented their proposed activities for the year 2015 to the media partners who evaluated their various communication strategies.
Created in 2008, activities of the Cameroon coalition of RRI are little known according to Mireille Tchiako, communication officer of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) Cameroon.
Thus, in its communication strategy for 2015, as presented by Mary Nyuyinwi, RRI facilitator for Central Africa and Liberia, the Coalition has put a focus on the media as a key player in supporting the visibility of its actions and in improving the understanding of its areas of intervention.
Like Nguiffo, Emily Snow RRI’s Africa program associate from Washington said she was delighted with the outcome of the two days workshop.
Ndi Eugene Ndi in Douala

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

CPJ Urges Nigerian President To Prioritize Press Freedom

NewsWatch Cameroon--Below is a letter from the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ to the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari

June 3, 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari
State House, Abuja
Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
Senior Special Assistant to the President
Special Adviser to the President

Via email

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to congratulate you on your recent victory in Nigeria's presidential election. As Nigeria prepares to enter a new chapter in its history, we urge you and your administration to take steps to ensure that journalists are able to work freely and openly in the country without fear of reprisal of any form.

In your inaugural speech on May 29, you identified insecurity and pervasive corruption in Nigeria to be among your immediate concerns. You also recognized the country's "vibrant" press and appealed to the media to exercise "its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism." It is our belief that a patriotic press is also a critical press. To achieve your objective in tackling the challenges Nigeria faces, it is vital that your government prioritize press freedom so that journalists may ask questions and expose corruption at all levels of society without fear of harassment or intimidation. Nigerians and the world must be left without any suspicion or uncertainty about the transparency of your government.

As Nigeria aspires to strengthen its democracy, your government must show that it can tackle Nigeria's challenges, including the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency and the use of terror tactics, but can do so without compromising democratic principles, whose core elements include press freedom and freedom of expression. The success of the democratic government you now lead will depend largely on the guarantee that journalists are free to inform the society about their commonwealth.

We welcome your public assurances that you will not allow authorities to abuse the trust of the Nigerian people. We are encouraged by your promise to take disciplinary steps against security forces who commit human rights violations, but there is a long way to go.

Security forces are the most frequent perpetrators of violations against the press, according to the Lagos-based International Press Centre, which found that Nigerian police and security forces were responsible for 24 of at least 32 cases of attacks on journalists between November 2014 and February this year. No one has been brought to justice, the IPC said. CPJ has also documented other physical attacks, threats, and intimidation of local and international journalists seeking to cover the news.

In a weeklong siege in June 2014, soldiers and agents of the Nigerian State Security Service disrupted the operations of nearly a dozen independent newspapers under the guise of fighting terrorism, according to CPJ research. Federal troops across the country seized and destroyed newspaper deliveries, confiscated editions, and took over media vehicles. No public apology was forthcoming, nor any compensation given for the loss in newspaper sales incurred by news organizations, distributors, transporters, vendors, advertisers, and other stakeholders.

CPJ has also documented a worrisome number of work-related murders of journalists in Nigeria. Since 1992, at least 10 Nigerian journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work, while another nine journalists have been killed under unclear circumstances, CPJ research shows. The country is second only to Somalia in terms of Africa's worst record of unpunished murders of journalists. In 2014, Nigeria ranked 12th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free. President Goodluck Jonathan's government showed no resolve in finding the killers of these journalists, but we ask that you make this a priority of your administration.

Nigeria retains outdated laws on criminal defamation, publishing false information, and sedition, which authorities have used to persecute journalists for their reporting. In 2010, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights called on member states to repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws, which impede freedom of speech, and to adhere to the provisions of freedom of expression articulated in the African Charter and other regional and international instruments. In a landmark ruling in December 2014, the African Court on Human and People's Rights found that prison sentences for criminal defamation were disproportionate and should be used only in restricted circumstances.

Still, despite growing international consensus that journalists should never face criminal charges for their professional work, Nigerian authorities continue to persecute the media. In December, two journalists with the Abuja-based National Waves magazine were arrested and charged two months later with criminal defamation, according to news reports. They had published a report in the magazine that alleged fraudulent dealings between an oil magnate and the Bauchi State government, news reports said.

CPJ, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, believes that the use of criminal laws against journalists for reporting news or opinion is wrong and has a deeply chilling effect on the press as a whole. Journalists are critics--not criminals.

On March 17, before the elections, you told the Nigerian Press Organisation in Abuja that if you won the presidency, "the Nigerian media will be free under our [All Progressives Congress] government." You also told the journalists, "The health of Nigeria's democracy rests partly on you. Without a robust and thriving media, the masses would have no voice."

We, too, believe that a society cannot thrive without a free and open press. This is why we are dismayed that on May 29, the day commemorating Nigeria's democracy and coinciding with your inauguration and that of Nigerian state governors, Joseph Hir, a journalist with the independent Daily Trust, was viciously attacked, allegedly by supporters of the Nassarawa State governor, a member of your political party, who stood a short distance away taking his oath of office, according to news reports. Hir told CPJ the attack followed repeated threats he had received over a recent story he wrote that questioned the political relevance of Nassarawa State in the national affairs of your political party, the All Progressives Congress.

Mr. President, we are aware of the significant challenges your administration faces, which are problems not of your making but which you are now required to solve. The peaceful transition of power in Nigeria has generated unprecedented good will and support, and we join those many voices in wishing you well.

As you assume the responsibilities of your office, we ask that you place press freedom at the top of your agenda and follow your pledge to address media freedom with meaningful action. We respectfully urge you to demonstrate your commitment to freedom of the press by working toward the repeal of all laws that criminalize defamation in Nigeria. We also ask that your administration prosecute the killers of journalists and that you ensure that police and security forces refrain from carrying out attacks, detentions, or intimidation of the press and that those who do face the full consequences of the law.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to hearing from you.


Joel Simon
CPJ Executive Director

CC List:

Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, President Muhammadu Buhari

Femi Adesina, Special Adviser, President Muhammadu Buhari

Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress

Pansy Tlakula, African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information

David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

Source; CPJ Website