Journalists in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of the country greatly hit by the ongoing Anglophone crisis, say it is gradually becoming almost impossible for them to do their job effectively and efficiently. They revealed their ordeals to this reporter on Thursday, January 24 in Buea.
They say they are facing trials from many fronts; administration, police and the general public. “It is very difficult now to gather news because access to information has been stiffened more than ever before; even if you get to a source to enquire newsy information that is not even connected to the Anglophone crisis, they are not willing to talk. Everyone is just linking everything to the Anglophone crisis even if it is not connected,” Isidore Abah, journalist and Desk Editor of ‘The Post Newspaper’ Buea lamented.
According to him, most people don’t want to talk at all to the press even on issues that concern them hence, making it very difficult for a journalist now to have quotable quotes. Abah added that even the few who accept to talk, will do so on conditions of anonymity, but he said the challenge is that when one over uses anonymity, the readers tend to doubt one’s credibility as they think the stories are being cooked up in the newsroom by the reporter. He continued, “Also, the police are not helping; when they see a journalist they think he is a spy. In fact, they are always mistaking journalists for spies and it makes it very difficult for information gathering. There’s intimidation too even from officials. They tell you, ‘we don’t want to talk, if we talk you will misquote us and you know what this dispensation means.’ And if somebody requests anonymity, you have to grant their request because it is their right. We must also do so in order to keep the newspaper going given that, alternative sources are not even there we just have to keep digging until we have the information,” he stated.
“I think that journalists are not out to destroy the country, so the military should see journalists as partners in the construction of the republic. It is our right as journalists to bring the societal challenges to the fore. If we don’t say it, people will not understand. It is by doing what we do that Government can step in to better the situation. I am also hoping that journalists don’t give up, but stay positively aggressive.”
The Editor furthered that, it is not easy but they have to keep doing the job because being aware of the fact that it has ever been difficult gaining access to information, his appeal to the Government or the parliament is for them to come up with a bill proposing an information act granting journalists access to information. A bill, he said, he is certain will go a long way to help journalists nationwide.
On her part, Relindise Ebune of ‘The Rambler Newspaper’ Buea recounted how the news gathering process is getting more difficult by the day. She said even the news events that used to happen have drastically reduced as she has discovered that people are now scared of organizing any news-making event in a place like Buea due to insecurity. “Remember that it is sometimes from these news events that one gets other news ideas but, that is no longer the case. There is news drought and if one tends to rely on public events, then there will be no news.
“An official during a recent public event which recorded a very low attendance whereas it was a meeting which ought to have brought together participants nationwide told us that, participants from Yaounde had even proposed that the meeting be hosted in Douala because to them, Buea is a war zone but, they insisted and hosted it in Buea and the turnout was really discouraging. If it was taken out of Buea, it means, the journalists in Buea would have had no news to cover,” Ebune noted, proposing that the many obstacles preventing journalists West of the Mungo from effectively executing their duties can only be surmountedif a solution to the socio-political crisis plaguing this part of the country is found soonest.
By Nester Asonganyi