How a Free Press Enhances Democracy?

Panellists of the radio political talk show programme “Electorat” on Magic FM expressed differing opinions on the contributions of the press in a democratic society.

As the International community commemorated World Press Freedom Day yesterday May 3, 2015, opinions are wagging on how free the press is in Cameroon and how it is contributing to the budding democracy. Such was the case of the political talk show programme “Electorat”, on the Yaounde-based Magic FM last Saturday May 2, during which the panellists differed on so many issues.

Media’s Powerful Effects

The media’s powerful effect came under focus as the panellists argued its role in a democracy. While Daniel Mpond Arymis underlined that the press has to be free to report stories as they unfold, he acknowledged the powerful effect of the media stating that the media is a sensitive instrument that can threaten public order. A political analyst Eric Achille Nko’o buttressed media’s powerful effect by stating that the media is a tool for politicians to convey their ideas to the society but regretted the inaccessibility to information by the press. Frank Hubert Ateba supported the view that the media is the most powerful vector where information can be expressed either orally or written. This opinion was also confirmed by SDF’s Communication officer for the Centre region, Emmanuel Mbenoun, who cited the press’s role in the Watergate scandal that involved President Nixon in the United States of America.

Media Responsibility

The freedom of the press and its role in the society notwithstanding, the media has to exercise responsibility. A journalist, Christian Lang noted that freedom of the press goes with responsibility because the media organs are largely responsible for whatever content is broadcast or published. He argued that the demand for responsibility in the media should not be misconstrued as restriction to information. To Daniel Mpond Arymis, the media is losing the value of its strength because journalists have allowed themselves to be manipulated. While Panaafricanist Frank Hubert of the Afrique Avenir NGO holds that journalists should do their job without intimidation, Lang argued that the good grains should be separated from the bad ones adding that the socio-political landscape in Cameroon gives room for quantitative and not qualitative press from. He further argued that the press is a victim of circumstances in Cameroon as it is always considered unfair when it exposes corrupt practices, homosexuality amongst other vices in the society.

Role of NCC

In the course of the debate, the panellists examined the role of the National Communication Council (NCC) in the media landscape of the country. While Frank Hubert Ateba sees the NCC as a surveillance and repressive organ, Emmanuel Mbenoun accused the NCC of censorship of the press. Meanwhile, a trade unionist, Jean Collins Ndefossokeng argued that the structure created by government as a stitch in time intended to put order in the profession that has been invaded by quakes. Journalists, he added, are misusing the freedom of the press in the country. While also saluting the existence of the NCC, Eric Achille Nko’o regretted that the structure has gone above its powers.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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