Saturday, April 25, 2015

SDF At 25; When Every Newspaper Reader Becomes A Professor Of Journalism

By Aminateh Nkemngu

NI John FRU Ndi

The month of May is an eventful one in Cameroon. If not for anything, but for the fact that it carries four significant celebrations for Cameroonians who enjoy “enjoyment” especially beer drinking. And this “enjoyment” usually begins with Labour Day celebrations. Far from being a moment for workers in diverse fields to articulate work related issues, it is usually the day to forget all frustrations on the job and go merry making. And then comes the 3rd of May, otherwise referred to as “World Press Freedom Day”. For some unexplained reasons ,journalists and media houses in Cameroon usually shy away from labour day, only to come out two days later on 3rd May ,to make a lot of noise about press freedom ,oftentimes without addressing working conditions in their respective media houses, as many as they are. But this does not in any way cancel the fact that the world over, press freedom  is a measuring instrument  of democratic progress .Then comes 20th May, the National Day when all Cameroonians celebrate as one people irrespective of region of origin  ,ethnicity , race, religion,polticial affiliation  or any other social variable. Under normal circumstances, National Day is the most important in the life of every nation, as is rightly the case with Cameroon, especially in the face of the Boko Haram War. But some “misguided “individuals have continued to hang on to colonial cleavages and vestiges to sow seeds of discord. Finally, but more subjectively is the 26th of May ,which is the birth day of the SDF party, already going down in history as Cameroon’s leading oppositions party for more than 25 years. This will formally be confirmed on 26 May when the party celebrates its silver jubilee in Bamenda, its birth place on 26th May 2015.The sensitivity of this issue can be reflected in an article captioned “SDF 25TH Anniversary; “Founding Militants Want Fru Ndi Out”, published on page 6 of The Sun Newspaper No 0312 of Monday April 20, 2015.The reactions to the said article is not only mind bugling, but has also pushed the author of the article to revisit it. During a brief private stay to the South West Region recently, the said article came under a lot of debate to the point where the publisher and editor of the Sun Newspaper both received several calls on the position of the article that “founding militant want Fru Ndi out at 25th anniversary”. That’s not all, the national media including CRTV ,Canal 2,LTM,STV and several local radio stations in Bamenda and the South West  region as well as newspaper readers ,TV viewers and radio listeners have  taken much interest and reacted diversely to the story including dictating what ought to have been written and who ought to have been quoted. And all of these debates bring us back to the story; Firstly, the article was written in a particular context, the National Executive Committee Meeting, NEC, whose sole agenda was to discuss the 25th anniversary of the party. The author of the article was physically present at the gathering. In fact the Chairman of the organizing committee, Honourable Awudu Mbaya Cyprian and the National chairman of the SDF, Ni John Fru Ndi are extensively quoted in the article.
Secondly, the article made mention of “founding militants” and not “founding fathers”. In as much as stereotyped readers might have erroneously understood “founding militants “ to mean the same as  “founding fathers,” the article simply broke the stereotype and took the debate out of the box. This means that away from the “Founding fathers” who have all along taken to the rostrum, several or many “founding militants” or those who were at ‘Liberty Square” when the party was launched in 1990 and who have braved the “labourious existence “ Awudu Mbaya referred to  are still alive and have also found time to air their opinion on the functioning of the party. Afterall, the author of the article was a primary school pupil on 26 May 1990.
Thirdly, many newspaper readers cum “professors of journalism “who have never taken a single lecture on journalism have claimed that the article did not quote any militants. But they must also be reminded of the sacrosanct principle of protection of sources especially in such a sensitive context where witch-hunting can set in as is now proving. This issue is particularly addressed in section 50(1) of law no 90/52 of 19 December 1990 which states that “journalists and their collaborators shall not be bound to disclose their source of information”. Section 47(1) of the same law states that “a journalist shall be bound to process information in an objective and responsible manner”. The chairman of the anniversary organizing committee, Honourable Awudu Mbaya Cyprian and party chairman Ni John Fru Ndi are widely quoted in the write-up. Why must there be emphasis on the release of the identity of the “founding militants” contrary to section 50(1) of the law just quoted above, if not for ulterior motives by self seeking individuals?
Furthermore, the reaction to the story is an indicator that the article and the newspaper are widely read, contrary to doomsday prophets who have undertaken to attack the newspaper and not the issue. Above all, even in mass communication theory in university lecture halls, ”Agenda Setting “ is one of such theories. Without prejudice, the article has only successfully ignited a debate on the “information market place”. This could just be a good research topic for the roadside “journalism professors” to go back to the laboratory .After all, the position of National Chairman of the SDF is elective, and only the militants can decide who stays and who goes.

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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