By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi (The Sun newspaper, Cameroon)
Media stakeholders and journalists are pressing for government to implement a law that will make access to public records and other information of public concern freely accessible in Cameroon.
Over 25 journalists and media practitioners expressed the need for a freedom to information act during a workshop on Friday 22nd November 2013 in Buea, championed by the pan-African Non-Governmental Organisation, AFRICAphonie, with funds from the British High Commission in Cameroon. The media brainstorming forum was moderated by ace-journalist and civil society activist, Victor Epie Ngome.
The forum was thus to review the law and make meaningful suggestions to government and the legislator so that the law can be upgraded to fit with the modern standards of communication.
The Executive Director of AFRICAphonie, Mwalimu George Ngwane, stated in his opening remarks that the importance of a freedom to Information Act in Cameroon cannot be overemphasized, but however said it was also the duty of journalists to bring these issues to the drawing board looking at the barriers they find on their way as they discharge their functions. As Cameroon struggles to fit itself among the models of the Developed and Advanced democracies, George Ngwane said it is important for Cameroon to become one of the African countries to have a Freedom to Information Act like Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Niger etc. Jesse Konang of the South West Regional Delegation of Communication noted that a freedom to Information Act in the country will greatly assist the journalist in his/her work. This Act will thus oblige keepers of public information to make administrative documents available to the media as Ayang Macdonald of Eden Media Group, participant at the workshop confirmed. Well grounded journalists and publishers like Wasso Norbert Binde, Managing Editor of The Sun newspaper, joined fellow participants at the workshop to call on government to send the 1990 Communication Law back to Parliament for a review to include the recommendations arrived at.
Mwalimu George Ngwane at the close of the workshop said the proposals made on the two documents would subsequently go through other stages of scrutiny, namely through legal ,diplomatic and civil society bodies before finding their way into Parliament as a Bill for deliberation and eventual adoption and enactment into law.