Home » News Focus, The Star Newsline

Media in Cameroon, take a rear view of self -Veteran Journalist Meuma Meombo

26 September 2017 No Comment

Veteran CRTV Journalist Muema Meombo

By Benjamin Et-Nchenge
In spite of the enormous challenges, the Cameroon media is discharging its constitutional role of supporting the goals and objectives of the Cameroonian people by providing regular information to the people, exposing corruption, injustice, double standards and non-performance and fighting tyranny and anti-democratic tendencies. The media has not always allowed political leaders to do just what they like. The Cameroonian media has very often challenged the excesses of the government and do hold the government accountable to the people from time to time. As Meuma Meumbo popularly called MM, a retired veteran Journalist with CRTV once put it; there is no democracy without the press. The success of a democracy, he argues, depends “on the measure of freedom of the press in the country.”
In this discussion, no attempt has been made to privilege the media in Cameroon as a perfect institution. Some of the common criticisms against the media are that it is are biased, too quick to jump on the bandwagon, easily manipulated, sensational, and careless with information, corrupt, lack depth and that they cater to the lowest common denominator.
The Cameroonian media has also been accused of misrepresentation, deliberate falsehood, malicious reporting, sloppy writing and poor editing, lack of balance and originality, timidity and over-reliance on government or corporate press releases.
There is also the problem of elitism-poor, uneducated and rural dwellers are often missing from our media. They only impinge on our consciousness when they violate the laws or do something stupid. The media is also over-commercialized. Anything goes as long as you can pay. This has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor and created a situation where government, corporate groups and moneybags monopolize the media because they are the only ones that can pay. As for Government-owned media outfits, most of them have serious credibility deficit. Many Cameroonians do not trust them because most the time, they toe the government line.
Commenting on the many short-comings of the media in Cameroon, the veteran Journalist listed them as planting of stories, putting a spin on stories, “fiction writing, partisanship and elegantly served nonsense masquerading as informed commentary” which he said have “become the order of the day. Politicians long caricatured by a hostile media or denied the right-of-reply are forced to state their cases in paid advertisements, found their own newspapers or television stations or simply carry on with their work hoping that orchestrated bad press will not count.”
In assessing media coverage of the 2013 elections, Mr. Meumbo recalled that the “coverage was not issue based; the media was not sufficiently critical in analyzing the various campaign promises made by political parties or their candidates; the media demonstrated weaknesses in investigative journalism; most times the media had failed to distinguish between the official and political party campaign activities of incumbents like the Mayors and Parliamentarians generally, government owned media severally and commonly violated the provisions of the Electoral Act, and Professional Code of Ethics.”
The Journalist rated the Cameroonian media coverage of politics and democratic processes ineffective and attributed it to the constraints of “confusing politician issues as political issues; unbalanced curricula of media training institutions; commercialization of news; self-censorship; pressure on editors in allocating Journalists to beats; and the socio-cultural context within which the media operate.”
In particular, he identified “poor logistical support; misunderstanding of the roles of Journalists and the media by politicians; proliferation of quacks; level of editorial independence; ownership influence; advertisers influence; and absence of investigative journalism” as obstacles militating against effective media coverage of elections:
Way forward
The Cameroon media must constantly build capacity in the coverage of democracy and governance, invest in new equipment, do more investigative reporting and be better informed about the media’s role in a democracy and about the workings of other democratic institutions. They should ensure editorial independence and maintain discipline among journalists; they should not allow themselves to be compromised by politicians and governments in power.
The media must commit themselves to protecting and upholding the public interest or public good at all times. They should endeavour to stick to the principles and ethics of the journalism profession.
In addition, the Cameroonian media must do more of development journalism to promote equality and social justice, education, health care delivery et al. They have to be concerned about the situation in a country and then partner with the people to find solutions to common problems. They should take government’s programmes and policies to the people and feed the government back on their effectiveness and possible ways of improving them. The media should give voice to the voiceless, empower the poor and vulnerable members of the society, encourage the marginalized segments of the society to be actively involved in changing their circumstances, and highlight the plight of those often missing from mainstream media. It is the duty of the media to bring the government, the people and the media together to effect positive change in the society.
In their coverage of political issues, there is the need to draw a distinction between politics for politics sake or what some have called political politics and development politics. Political politics adds no real value to a nation while development politics can positively transform a nation.
I agree with Mr. Meuma Meumbo that the media should “focus increasing attention on leaders in public institutions, political offices and how they discharge their responsibilities, lead their people and acquit public trust.” He also advocates that the media should “focus extra attention on building institutions in the country instead of building some strong individuals” and argues that building institutions “have more advantages than strengthening of individuals” because “functional institutions enhance the performance of the system and protect the society from the deviant behaviour of the few that try to injure the majority”.
For the media to effectively play their role in the polity they should be accurate and objective, and must be known for their consistency, creativity, innovation and ability to deliver quality content. They should strive for excellence, be clear about what each media organization stands for; journalists and editors should know what makes a good story; media outfits should be professionally managed and be guided by the core values of journalism; and such media organizations should develop an open and honest relationship with their primary constituency. Indeed, media in Cameroon should take a rear view of itself.

Comments are closed.