Tuesday, June 16, 2015

National Communication Council: Beyond Right and Wrong

By Fai Cassian Ndi
Sharks, it is stated play a very important role in the oceans in a way that an average fish does not. This is so because sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In the Cameroon media landscape that role is bestowed on the National Communication Council-NCC. Like the shark, NCC may not have been selective on who to prey on very efficiently. Though the shark uses intimidation to regulate the behavior of prey species, and prevent them from overgrazing vital habitats, NCC depends on sanctions to normalize the media. When Late Bishop Befe Ateba was appointed to head the National Communication Council most Cameroonians, especially members of the press corps saw in him a Daniel come to judgment. They erroneously thought that being a man of God, he would be the light of truth and encourages initiatives that would enhance effective communication, not stifle it. His decision to revive the Pungent Article 13 of the 1990 Liberty Law was regarded as another white shark thrown back into the ocean to prey on the small fish population.
It worked and worked extremely well until lately when the shark attacked the big fish in the ocean, the case of Le Messager, L’Emergence and Mutation Newspapers thrive. The attempt to carefully eat them like the small fish has become a hard nut. Another case in point that continue to attract worries of why the headiness is that of Afrique Media which like a toddler has completely ignored NCC sanctions. Critics have been wondering whether it is right for NCC to shut down media houses given that there are countless ways of regulating the media. On the other hand, impressionists think Afrique Media for example allows panelists to air out their views without pull-backs and it infringes. Yet the President of the National Syndicate of Cameroon Journalists, Denis NKWEBO is quoted on the social media to have exploded that the mandate of Peter ESOKA as interim Chairman of NCC ended on December 4, 2014, six months Befe Ateba kicked the bucket. Thus Esoka’s decisions are null and void.
The main issue is not only that the regime is very comfortable to see journalists at loggerhead. Killing the mainstream media is giving room to citizen journalism to thrive. The emergence and popularisation of the social media, which allows anyone with a Smartphone to play at journalism and “break” a news story as it happens seems to ease the opportunity in the scuffle to make their days.
Many have undoubtedly been attracted to the profession by the romantic aura that surrounds the news rooms of the 20th century where the fiddling of expenses exists in stark contrast to the ascetic drive of today’s sharp-elbowed gimmicks. Implicitly, the social media is making its mark. At a certain point in time, one young journalist asked me whether blogging is equivalent to publishing. This was when the issue of “North West Active Publishers” was hotly debated on. I can proudly remind my little friends that time changes and not only are we saying goodbye to the entire 20th Century newsroom aura, there is general agreement that newspapers will, sooner or later, cease to exist at all in their current form.
Differences of opinion mainly concern how structures like NCC will use the internet to return to profitability in its actions. Even if I publish this edition and NCC decides to ban me for life, modernity just transformed me to a blogger– surely I am only bringing this issue to the attention of those young boys. And that’s partly true of course. But only partly. It’s not my job prospects that you should be worried about (thanks all the same). Of greater concern is what would become of NCC when the big fish snubs their decisions. Cameroonians already favour the rich, powerful and glamorous over the poor, weak and unfashionable. And one suspects that the gulf between NCC and the media will increase and to maybe put one on the gutter. The collapse of NCC is almost certainly inevitable. For a structure whose decisions are challenged to fight against it would be the equivalent of setting fire to reams of bank notes, and they certainly aren’t going to do that. The worst of it all is that the internet will bring with it a flowering of innovative citizen journalism. And if they survive to play the regulators the future our media will probably resemble the establishment talking to itself, and if that’s the case we will all be worse off, not only us hacks, but with them.


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

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