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Active Behind The Storm,Pressed But Not Crushed!

Dear sisters,sorry for the long silence,I have had it rough with internet connections for sometime now,but I`m happy I finally made it.It`s been tough.Thank God you all are there to let me know how to make this better.Find the story below:

Which press organization do you work for and who authorized you to take snap shots of this building? Not giving me any room to explain, he forcefully took away the camera I was holding. When I tried to inquire what was wrong, he gave me a furious glance and told me that women do not exchange words with him, much less from criminals like myself. He made a few steps backwards while dialing a number on his mobile phone. A few minutes later, a police jeep carrying three other very angry police officers parked in front of us. After taking away my mobile phone, they asked me to come with them to their station. I sat in the back of the the vehicle too frightened to talk. I was taking snap shots of women in public offices to illustrate an article I was writing about working class women to be published in a local paper for which I was freelancing. The intent of the article was to highlight the economic benefits of encouraging women to work out of the domestic milieu. Unfortunately for me, it happened to be at a time when a private newspaper had just published an article criticizing the filthy and dilapidated nature of government buildings in Cameroon`s economic capital.
When I got to the station, it was noon. I was taken straight to the police commissioner who addressed me angrily for a couple of minutes accusing journalists of inciting violence amongst the citizens by always being critical of the government. He promised to use me as an example to my other colleagues. I spent 6 hours without food and water in a tiny dark room without a window or furniture. I was forced to sit on the bare floor as I wondered what my fate was going to be in the hands of these angry people. At 6 pm, I was taken out of the room to meet one of my friends who work for the government radio. She had been alerted by some Good Samaritan that I was there. With a smile of assurance, Eli communicated to me that all was going to be okay. I was finally released at about 7 30 pm, after pleading seriously with the police commissioner. Upon our departure we were warned to stop talking carelessly about the government or be ready to receive worse treatment. Though I was so frightened, I knew for sure that silence was never going to be an option for me.
I have never stopped pondering about a solution to the harsh treatment pressmen receive in my country. I was not surprised to learn that Cameroon`s press freedom is amongst the worst in the world. Freedom House`s recent index ranks the Cameroon Press 143rd out of 195 countries worldwide and is considered ‘’not free’’. The multiplicity of privately owned media organizations in the country is no guarantee of a free press environment. A recent classification by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) places Cameroon as the second worst African country for journalists. Criminal and libel laws are used by government officials to molest members of the press who dare to criticize the government. Intolerance to objective and critical reporting on the management of public affairs, the criminalization of press offenses and the use of Draconian communication laws are the weapons used by government authorities to veil their malpractices.
As I lay in bed that night, the burden I felt for the voiceless intensified; I was afraid of being jailed or losing my life, but I just could not convince myself that the solution to this problem was silence. It is just so inevitable to talk about the plight of women in Cameroon without criticizing the government`s non -chalance, so far as issues related to human rights are concerned. The world must know about the plight of Cameroonians, and this can happen only if journalists take it as their responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless.
No matter how dangerous it may be, there is hope in exposing difficulties. From that day I vowed never to write any article that is not solution oriented and to use the Internet more than ever before to speak out for the voiceless. It is just part and parcel of me to speak out for the weak, when I sense injustice. This appears to be the reason for my existence. I have gotten myself into trouble many times for speaking out, as well as many problems have also been solved by this attitude.
Three years before my most recent experience, I was forced by police officers to drink from a gutter full of water mixed with urine . I was passing by a student residential area when students were on strike and was required to identify myself to the police before going my way. When they saw in my identity card that I was a journalist, they accused me of inciting the students to riot and began harassing me. First I was asked to sit on the ground on the main road and then one of the police officers asked me to carry water using my hands from a nearby gutter which was stinking terribly of urine and drink. When I tried to resist they threatened to flog me. The sight of their batons sent cold shivers through my spine. I was forced to drink the water, after which they asked me to leave the area with immediate effect! Thank God I never fell ill, but the thought of that experience gave me constant nausea for about a month. Being a journalist in the real sense of the word in Cameroon is like playing with the tail of a lion. Anything can happen at any time.

The death of Germaine Cyrille Ngota editor of one of the country`s weekly publications who died early 2010,has left an indelible mark on Cameroon`s press freedom reputation . His death certificate indicates that he died from lack of medical attention while in jail. Cyrille Ngota and three others were put behind bars in February 2010 for exposing a corruption saga involving a presidential advisor. Ngota`s death has remained uninvestigated despite immense pressure from the international community. An attempt for a peaceful demonstration by fellow journalists on World Press Freedom Day 2010,to protest his death led to police brutalization of journalists in Yaounde,the capital of Cameroon.
Not so obvious to many is the fact that death threats and orders for the abandonment of corruption related investigations are typical in the day to day life of journalists in Cameroon. Anonymous phone calls and text messages to journalists and their loved ones and anonymous letters slipped under the doors of their apartments and offices are some of the challenges these pressmen have to deal with. Most of the threats remain unreported for fear of the unknown by the journalists. Some of them have been forced to go on exile or seek asylum in other countries, causing painful family separations. Many journalists in Cameroon are currently facing trial for one reason or the other.Some examples are
Since Jan 2010,Alex Gustave Azebaze,an independent journalist,Thiery Ngongang of Spectrum TV,Anani Rabier Bindzi of Canal 2 International,Dr Aboya Endong- Manasse editor of a bi monthly newspaper ‘’have been facing a collective trial for their participation in a 2008 TV debate on ‘’the albatross saga’’ involving the purchase of a Boeing 727 aircraft for the President’s fleet.
Nadege Christele Bowa of ‘’le Messager ‘’ daily was arrested and detained by the gendarmerie for reporting on the 14 year detention of former Secretary general of the Presidency Titus Edzoa who resigned in 1996 and stood for presidential elections in contest with President Biya.
Charley Ndi Chia Editor- in -Chief of The Post newspaper and president of the Cameroon Union of Journalists along with Kinni Nsom head of the Yaoundé Bureau of the same newspaper are answering questions at the Bamenda high court for reporting that Fon Doh Gah Gwanyin is still free,even after receiving a 15 year jail term for the assassination of a political opponent.
These are just a few of many cases. Journalists in Cameroon operate in a very unfriendly and unfavorable legal environment, characterized by the suppression of laws that could be useful to journalists and the utilization of the penal code to criminalize media offenses. Another clear illustration of the prevailing press environment in Cameroon is the life of the late Cameroonian press freedom fighter Pius Njawe who had been to jail 126 times in his 31year journalism career.
In the face of repression, many journalists have been forced to practice self- censorship for fear of losing their lives. Objective reporting has become farfetched as they now write to please the powers that be rather than tell the truth. However a few have stood their ground and continued to report objectively. That has to an extent helped to draw the attention of the international community to irregularities in the country.
Raised in a community where the rights of women are suppressed by negative cultural values, I grew up with the quest to liberate myself and other women from the clutches of this culture. My dad nick named me ‘’Madame la journaliste’’ at the tender age of seven, because I was always asking many questions as if I was conducting an interview. My questions always centered around the injustices done to women. I was fond of asking my dad why mum was always working in the backyard while he was constantly relaxing in the living room, reading his newspaper and listening to news. When he attempted a response, each answer led to another question until he could explain no further. To avoid my questions he always gave me little story books to read aloud to him and corrected me each time I stumbled on a word. This activity inculcated in me fluency and the love for story telling at an early age.
When I got to secondary school, I was encouraged by my Literature teachers to join the journalism club. My inquisitive nature saved me from the ritual of breast ironing when I was fourteen. When my grandma introduced the idea I asked her so many questions that she realized pressing my breast with a hot stone and pestle would not prevent me from getting pregnant. (53% of girls in Cameroon have had their breasts brutally pressed or pounded with hot objects to prevent them from developing early). Since then it dawned on me that speaking out positively can be a solution to the ordeals of women in my community. I told myself that someone needs to speak out for those who cannot and I can be that person . For four years I participated actively in the journalism club occupying the post of Editor-in-Chief for two years while serving as Information Prefect of the school. I heard so many stories how journalists were locked up and how some had died mysteriously; that did not quench my love for this profession.
My unquenchable passion of speaking out for the voiceless is what led me to go for a B.Sc. in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in Women and Gender Studies . My dream has always been to get more education but my gender and poverty have been my bulwarks. Thank God for VOF.My love for women pushed me to volunteer with an NGO as a gender reporter for their magazine. After three months I was given my first employment employment as editor for the magazine due to my outstanding contributions.
My love for broadcasting pushed me to take a job as news anchor and reporter for a private TV station. I spoke against the government quite often and received several threats through calls and telephone messages from unknown persons. I endured two night attacks by armed men in my apartment during which I was warned and slightly brutalized. Though I have kept these experiences secret for fear of further brutalization, they have only served to fuel my passion to speak out for the oppressed.
Going freelance two years ago was not my will but has helped me develop a lot of interest in online journalism which is a safe way of speaking out in a society like mine that is unfriendly to the press. Being a Voices Of The Future(VOF) correspondent is a golden opportunity for me to learn more about using the Internet to disseminate information and fulfill my dreams to receive training about women empowerment. I shall remain active behind this storm until the women in my community experience sunny days.

Comments

Mei Li's picture

Oh!

"As I lay in bed that night, the burden I felt for the voiceless intensified; I was afraid of being jailed or losing my life, but I just could not convince myself that the solution to this problem was silence. It is just so inevitable to talk about the plight of women in Cameroon without criticizing the government`s non -chalance, so far as issues related to human rights are concerned. The world must know about the plight of Cameroonians, and this can happen only if journalists take it as their responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless."

And remember, too, the people who hear your voice are the ones who will hopefully, actively help change the situation.

Today in class we read a part of the US Declaration of Independence. My professor asked what I thought. I said that the language was beautiful and the ideas were nice, but that we no longer employ the values we so claim to have, the values we will ultimately die for, the values we wish upon the rest of the world.

A congresswoman was shot in my state this past week. I have a close friend who was at a social worker's convention when it happened. She said there was so much security and preparation that went into making sure the people at the convention were safe. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and suddenly every group she advocated for was worried too for their own safety. I asked my friend how she kept fighting...how her eyes were still so bright when we live in a state that continues to push women backwards. She said that crying helps and that the state we are in right now in Arizona was not about winning a fight because the force again equality was so strong that all we can do right now is put out the fires and be on the defense.

I wasn't going to write about her or the event at all...but reading your piece encouraged me to make the connections that need to be relayed about what is happening in Arizona.

Good luck on your final draft, I am sure it will be amazing!

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

Leina's picture

Yes Mei we need to write and write

Dear Mei,
I am glad you are going to write about the death of Gabrielle,the world needs to know about poeple like her.Silence is not a solution to injustice,we `d keep speaking while hoping for a change.
Peace
Shekina

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Welcome back, Shekina!

Hi Shekina! Nice to have you actively on board once more! This is a very powerful piece, sister ... and you're such a tough woman!

You're very right .... "No matter how dangerous it may be, there is hope in exposing difficulties." You may have heard of the gory Ampatuan massacre in my country in November 2009, that saw the heinous murder of 54 law-abiding citizens, 37 of them journalists - and mostly women! That's how it is when truth becomes too painful to contain, the risk is very high it can cause your life and the lives of many people. But there is hope, always, once truth is in the open. Actually, the massacre caused the tragic downfall of a powerful clan that wreaked havoc as it reigned supreme for so long. Of course, the price is high but the emancipation, awareness and motivation for change is worth all the truth that was revealed!

My salute, Shekina! You are worth emulating - a true-blue journalist! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Leina's picture

Emie I am humbled!

Emie,
Thanks for finding this worth while.Though difficult,dangerous,and sometimes painful to some hearers the truth has the power to set free.We have been called to spread the truth in objectivity as journalists.It is terrible to think that 37 journalists are killed because they dare to inform people of the truth.May their souls rest in peace as we continue in the battle between truth and injustice.
In Solidarity
Shekina

NI NI AYE's picture

They know the power of journalists

Dear Shekina

Many journalists in the countries with inadequate freedom are being pressured because they know the journalists which is able to let the public what they are doing. And gills are terrible in such kind of countries. I am so sad to hear about your stories pf being forced by them. I agree with you World Pulse is a right place for us to freely talk for truth. See you online sister .

Cheers

NI NI

Congratulations on Very Happy Teachers Day through ten years journey!

Leina's picture

Thank you NI NI

With world[pulse our stories will be heard more and in security.When we stop talking we stop growing!Thank you for contributing.
Kind regards
Shekina

warona's picture

Dear Shekina,Welcum back! A

Dear Shekina,Welcum back!

A breath taking piece my dear,you know quoting your words:

Being a Voices Of The Future(VOF) correspondent is a golden opportunity for me to learn more about using the Internet to disseminate information and fulfill my dreams to receive training about women empowerment. I shall remain active behind this storm until the women in my community experience sunny days.

As well indeed its a life time opportunity.within this pice i can feel and touch you,your emotions and your courage.there is always a wonder within my heart that this is beyond woman empowerment its journalism and having heared stories before that pertains to journalists in other countries hey my sister, what you explained here makes me shiver but however i told myself i need to arise and indulge myself to help my community.

Your piece my dear sister...................you are a jounalist indeed

yours and all the BEST

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Leina's picture

Thank you Warona

Dear Warona,
Thanks for joining your voice.We were all created to make this world better in one way or the other.Speaking on behalf of the downthrodden could just be one.
Love
Shekina

bounce's picture

the power of the pend

Shekina - thank you for your story.. and your courage.
and you know you have this community behind you.
this is a very strong piece..... powerfully written and beings to the fore so much of what journalists have to face in countries like ours.
thank you for your voice.

Leina's picture

Dear Bounce

Dear Bounce,
Thank you for the encouragement and reassurance.I am indeed comforted by this community.
Love
Shekina

Fungai Machirori's picture

This is amazing!

Wow! You are an amazing woman. Everything you write about also happens in Zimbabwe. I was once taken into police custody in 2006 while taking photographs of a riot. The police officer claimed I was a dissident working with 'imperial powers' abroad. I can still remember the psychological torture they put me through, initimidating me and amking me feel like nothing.
Ha, we are journalists indeed and we must speak! No matter how hard it gets, we MUST speak. Continue on sister!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

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