Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Guardian Post Publisher Ngah Christian Mbipgo Writes to NCC, Raises Pertinent Issues

Ngah Christian Mbipgo, Publisher of the Most Authoritatve English Newspaper
I received with shock; a taken by the National Communication Council (NCC) on November 21, 2013 to again suspend our widely-read and authoritative daily newspaper, The Guardian Post. The Guardian Post, it should be clarified, is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Going by the UNESCO definition of a daily newspaper, The Guardian Post is rightly qualified as a daily newspaper.
The Guardian Post, it should be recalled, just resumed publication on November 6, 2013;after serving a two-month suspension that was slammed by the NCC. In serving us that suspension, the key accusation was that we were advertising the activities of the tradi-practitioner called Dr. Dewah. We accepted the punishment with all humility; because we thought we were guilty of the ‘’crime’’.
But great has been our shock that to this today, local newspapers, radio and TV stations have continued to run advertisements on tradi-practitioners and their products without the NCC issuing them even a verbal warning! About the interview that has caused the second suspension
That The Guardian Post is served a three-month suspension because of an interview l granted the newspaper without mention of any name leaves one wondering whether some people are not using the NCC to settle personal scores and silence their competitors in the media market.
After we came back from our two months suspension, we thought it a good business strategy that the Publisher should at least clarify public opinion on the circumstances that caused the newspaper to disappear from the kiosks for a period of two months.
In answering one of the questions, l made a generalized statement that ‘’If those who WANTED The Guardian Post suspended even for a week were still leaving with their wives or have even a single biological child to carter for, they would have known what it means to live for two months without a job, with a wife and children to feed, clothe, educate and provide them health care’’.

I would like to be told how in anyway l would have been directing the above statement at the two Anglophone representatives at the NCC as was mentioned in the November 21, 2013 suspension decision. If the NCC were fair in their interpretation of the above statement for which The Guardian Post and its Publisher have been sanctioned, they would have interpreted it to mean that ‘’Those who WANTED The Guardian Post suspended even for a week…’’ were those who wrote a complaint to the NCC against the newspaper and NOT those who voted (NCC members) infavour of The Guardian Post suspension.
If I had said ‘’ lf those who voted for The Guardian Post suspension were still leaving with their wives or have even a single biological child to carter for, they would have known what it means to live for two months without a job, with a wife and children to feed, clothe, educate and provide them health care’’, the NCC would have been considered right in reasoning that I was indirectly referring to the two Anglophone members there.
I might just have been unfortunate that one or both of the Anglophone members at the NCC identified themselves with the above statement, but honestly, in my heart of hearts, I was NOT in any way directing the statement at them.
Even though by my humble up-bringing, I could not have thought of directing such statements at my senior colleagues at the NCC, I remember reading French Language newspaper reports ( with the pictures of the NCC President on the front page) in which he was terribly insulted and called all kinds of names. But to this day, I have NEVER heard that the Publishers of the said French Language newspapers have ever been called up at the NCC to defend what they published. Would one therefore be wrong in reasoning that the interpretation given my interview was just a way of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it? Would l be judged wrong if I reason that our crime is that The Guardian Post is fast growing ( being the only English Language daily in Cameroon and the most widely-read) against the wishes of some of our Anglophone competitors? Should one not now go away with the unshaken belief that some people are using the NCC which the President of the Republic painfully put in place to regulate the media sector in Cameroon; to settle personal scores and silence journalists and media organs which they consider a mighty threat to the survival of their own news organs? Otherwise, how on earth would someone be slammed a three-month suspension for granting an interview in which no name was mentioned?
I think being the true man of God that the President of the NCC is, he should have and should for the interest of the media in Cameroon preach ceaselessly to the other NCC members NOT to use a public office entrusted to them by the Powers That Be to settle personal scores and fight their personal battles. I equally do urge the President of the media regulator organ to remind those NCC members using the institution to settle personal scores that each and every one of us shall be answerable to the living and good God on the last day; about all our actions, in this sinful world. Irregularities of the November 21, 2013 Suspension
To begin with, we find it very unjust for the NCC to have gone ahead to suspend The Guardian Post for a period of three months without at least giving us a chance to defend ourselves; either by writing or in person. The decision by the NCC to sanction us without trial is repugnant to the preamble of the 1996 constitution of the Republic of Cameroon which states that every citizen shall have the right to a fair trial and judgment.
Going by the suspension decision, the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists- CAMASEJ, Yaounde deposited a complaint against The Guardian Post and its Publisher on November 14, 2013. But even though the suspension decision carries the date November 21, 2013, the NCC met and deliberated on the complaint on November 15, 2013; that is, just a day after it was deposited! This, we must point out, was in violation of the NCC internal rules and regulations; decision No. 00005/PC/CNC/ DU 25 AVRIL 2013. Article 29 (2) of that decision states that ‘’ The NCC Ordinary or Extraordinary session MUST be summoned at least 10 days before to hear a complaint pending before them’’.
Going by that same decision, upon reception of a complaint, Article 24 (3) states that ‘’ The Council shall appreciate the form, the legality and the proceeding opportunities then transfer the complaint to a Commission for examination’’; Sub (4) states that ‘’ After examination, the Commission presents its proposal to the Council which examines and adopts it if necessary’’. We will greatly appreciate if the President of the NCC can enlighten us on how the Council followed the above steps as stated in your internal rules and regulations within 24hours before proceeding to sanction us.
We are aware of a legal provision which states that a complaint can only be entertained if it is drafted by the individual(s) concerned or his counsel. We remember vividly and as a matter of jurisprudence the case of a Divisional Officer from the East Region whose complaint against Mutations Newspaper was rejected by the NCC on grounds that it was drafted by his wife and not the DO himself.
With respect to the above, we would wish to understand the form and legality under which the NCC entertained a complaint from a few members of CAMASEJ- Yaounde( who in the first place were not mandated by the general assembly of the association ) against The Guardian Post and its Publisher on behalf of the two Anglophone members of the NCC referred to in the suspension decision.
Article 39 of the NCC internal rules and regulations states inter-alia ‘’When a member of the NCC is party to a conflict or is concerned in a matter brought before the Council, the said member(s) shall not participate in the hearing and voting on the matter. Could it have been possible that the NCC could proceed to give a fair judgment in a matter pitting The Guardian Post and two members of the institution who part-took in the deliberations?

We are certain ipso- facto that in our case, the two Anglophone members mentioned in the suspension decision did not only actively take part in hearing the complaint against us but were among the four members who voted for the suspension of The Guardian Post and its Publisher against four others. We may like to be proven wrong if the NCC makes available to us a copy of the resolutions of that November 15, 2013 session. We would as a matter of right and for the sake of equity, also wish to have a copy of the CAMASEJ complaint against us.

We want to inform the general public that one week before the suspension decision was announced, one of the signatories of the complaint against The Guardian Post told two of our reporters that he already agreed with two of the NCC members on The Guardian Post suspension procedure. He disclosed that the NCC was going to go ahead with The Guardian Post suspension without summoning the Publisher for hearing. To substantiate his statement, he even went on a bet with our reporters that December 2013 will not meet The Guardian Post on newsstands. Days before The Guardian Post suspension was announced, the same signatories of the complaint caused CRTV management to suspend the review of the newspaper on grounds that it was pending suspension from the NCC. All of which came to pass.
It may sound difficult to believe that hours before the suspension decision was read on State Radio on November 21, 2013, one of the signatories of the complaint against us called one of our desk editors; precisely at 16:09 to announce that The Guardian Post has been suspended for three months.

This same individual was not only in possession of the suspension decision but was seen reproducing and distributing it on the streets of Yaounde even before it was officially read on State Radio during the 5 PM news. We would want the NCC to open up an investigation into how this individual got the decision even before it was made official. We observed that it was the first time in the history of sanctions taken by the NCC that beer quavers got copies before the concerned were served copies; more than 24 hours later!
In the light of the above, we can therefore conclude without any fear of contradiction that:
1). The dignity and reputation of The Guardian Post and its Publisher have been greatly belittled and damaged by the NCC in the eyes of every right-thinking member of the society;
2). The damages caused our Publisher and The Guardian Post are estimated in tens of millions.
With respect to the above, we are requesting the NCC to revoke its decision No: 00027/PC/SG of 21 November 2013; suspending The Guardian Post Newspaper and its Publisher, NGAH Christian MBIPGO; for a period of three months.
- Governor, Centre Region;
- All Diplomatic Missions Accredited to Cameroon
-The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon
-The National and International Media

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