Of Gramophones and the Talibanization of Government Communication. By Ntemfac Ofege.

Basic. The prime duty of government is to provide services. Whenever government fails to provide services, the citizenry resorts to all manner of ways including criticisms on radio and in newspapers, uprisings and coup d’états to abrogated predatory and failed governments.

Basic. The gramophone. Described as a willful artifact capable of producing sound of often dubious quality. A trademark of the gramophone: His Master’s voice. Whenever the pin of the gramophone got stuck, the instrument produced plenty of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The production of plenty of sound and fury is called noise. Cameroon’s current Minister of Communications, the esteemed Issa Tchiroma Bakary sounds like the final gramophone.

Basic. Talibanization should be defined as this extreme state wherein those who rule make believe that their point of view is the absolute. Talibans prescribe death to refuseniks who do not subscribe to their skewed rhetoric. Under the pretext that such deviants are perturbing public order. Off with their heads. Death to radio stations, for example.

Cameroun came very close to being a Taliban state when Ahmadou Ahidjo lorded it in these parts. Issa Babary Tchiroma, Cameroon’s new Minister of Communications is a pure product of the Ahmadou Ahidjo School of dictatorship, high-handedness and vile tyranny. Since he became Communications minister some months ago, Issa Bakary Tchiroma’s pronouncements lead many to dread the return of Ahmadou Ahidjo and the talibanization of communications in Cameroon. Proof, of that? The man has just shut down Sky One radio.

One of the conditionalities for creating a private radio and tv station in Cameroon is that ALL programmes of the radio and tv must be approved by the Ministry of Communications. Did the Ministry approve or did it fail to approve the Sky one programme, Le Tribunal? Who failed to provide vital services and who is today blaming the victims?

Accusing Sky one of not respecting professional norms and of defaming some Cameroonians is disingenuous – giving a dog a bad name. This is lynching. This is abuse of power. The Minister is not qualified to adjudicate on journalism. His Chief of Judicial Affairs is not qualified to adjudge on defamation. Only the courts can rule on defamation.

In pure democratic tradition, the Union of Journalists, UJC should have been consulted before the extreme closure of Sky one.  What if for the sake of solidarity all radio stations in Cameroon create programmes similar to Le Tribune du Peuple?

I have explored the format of the Sky one programme. This is another case of the people versus government. Had the Sky one journalists gone into investigating and interpreting the facts as brought to them by the public, the programme would have had more teeth. What is so wrong with having a Judge Judy format on radio?

Last June, a catholic cum French outfit published a document stating that Mr. Paul Biya may have swiped some 46 billion FCFA from the commonwealth.  Ever the Machiavellian, Mr. Biya moved fast to shuffle his cabinet, distract attention from the publication and make people like Issa Bakary Tchiroma minister.

Now Issa Tchiroma can be described as a political prostitute. He was UNDP yesterday, He was ANDP, then he was SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) and today he is the spokesman of the CPDM government! This minister hails from a culture not only associated with talibanism but also associated with griotism. That is why the man makes the perfect town-crier for Mr. Biya. It is Mr. Tchiroma’s legitimate right to go on all fours behind Mr. Biya, but it is also the right of Cameroonians to refuse that route. Only a Taliban would think differently.

Even time he has operated his routine electoral coup and has been sworn in as president, Mr. Biya has sworn to uphold the constitution. Article 66 of that constitution says, some public officials must declare their assets. Cameroon’s existing law on stealing public money prescribes LIFE JAIL for anyone who so much as swipe, misappropriate, or sidetrack only 500.000FCFA. Name one public official, from the District officer to the president, who has not distraire 500.000FCFA? Dixit Lapiro, they all belong to Kondengui, you see.

Had Mr. Biya declared his assets, we might not have reached the current wahala wherein political touts are parading up and down the country bleating Motions of Support like lost sheep. What has the president to say for himself? Did he take out 3.2 billion from the now dead SCB bank to build himself a country house with an attendant golf course? Did he dole out taxpayers money in the millions to his favourite Rose Croix sect? Did he, etc, etc? Sue CCFD, if you can!

One of Mr. Tchiroma’s dirges has been for Cameroonians to forget all these stolen funds and focus on creating wealth (la creation des richesses) so that itchy fingers can continue stealing.  This is ludicrous!

Government’s newest gramophone says that the solution to the kyrie of problems faced by the private media in Cameroon is to provide more government subsidies. This is truly asinine. Government subsidies are never timely nor enough. Moreover such bribes violate the SIGMA DELTA CHI Code of Journalism ethics as prescribed by UNESCO. And this money goes into the deep pockets of the owners while workers suffer. The private press in Cameroon has just reached a collective bargaining agreement with government.  To help the private press, government should respect its own engagements in the Convention Collective.

Government should also respect the treaty it signed with UNESCO as remove all taxes on media raw materials. And, government should begin respecting its own Law by handing out their due share of the AUDIO-VISUAL tax to private radio and television stations. The AUDIO-VISUAL tax was never intended for CRTV alone. Existing and future private radio and television stations ought to sue government.  And, ministers (Biyiti and Tchiroma) should desist from scaring away investors in the media with their misuse of a dubious concept called public order.

Mr. Issa Tchiroma hails from the North of Cameroon. He passes around for an eminence grise of the northern barons. Mr. Tchiroma’s action creates acute wariness of the return of the Northern merchants. Cameroonians can live with a gramophone in the Ministry of Communications, but surely not a Taliban.  Or is it a neo-Taliban?

Advertisements