Government and Amba fighters: Get your knees off the necks of Anglophone journalists
By Colbert Gwain
This reflection is inspired by the fact that just like the white American police officer who used the pretext of a supposed fake $20 bill to squeeze life out of the black American man, George Floyd, Cameroon authorities and secessionist movement fighters have been using the pretext that Anglophone journalists are supporters rather than reporters, to either squeeze life out of them or cow them to subjugation.
It is the more informed by the fact that just like racial discrimination in America might have frustrated the black community from realizing their own potential for over 401 years, so too, cultural and linguistic discrimination as well as marginalization might have been Cameroon’s leadership’s own way of kneeling on the necks of Anglophones for 59 years, just so they don’t realize their own potential.
It is also inspired by the fact that the brutal and extrajudicial killing of Buea-based journalist, Samuel Wazzizzi, be it on terrorism grounds and without giving him a chance to say his own side of the story, demonstrates in truimphant details the fact that living and working in the two English speaking regions as a journalist puts you only one door away from hell as you are likely to be accused by both sides in the conflict of being biased.
The question have been asked since the death of George Floyd. Could he have still been living if he were a white American? Even as the answer is blowing in the wind, the same question could be asked at the moment in Cameroon of Samuel Wazzizzi. Could he have still been living if he was a francophone journalist and arrested under the same circumstances? Are journalists in Cameroon held to the same account and standards?
If Anglophone journalists in Cameroon are treated with suspicion and scorn by Yaounde authorities, they are the more treated as ‘enablers’ by Ambasonian activists and fighters. Whichever way, the knees of those welding the gun are on their necks, and like George Floyd, they find difficulty breathing.
Each side in the conflict expect the journalist to deliver content that supports their views. Once that is not done, the reporter is considered an enabler or a supporter. What follows is their knees on your neck.
While government and it’s forces expect journalists in delivering content to refer to the Ambasonian and fighters as terrorists, the fighters and activists themselves expect the journalist to refer to the government and it’s forces as ‘occupiers’ and the two English speaking regions as ‘occupied territories’ . Once this is not done, they put their knees on your neck.
While government and it’s forces expect the journalist in delivering content to refer to the Anglophone regions as the North West and South West, the activists and their fighters on the ground expect you to refer to the area as Southern Cameroon’s or Ambasonian territory. Once this is not done, they put their knees on your neck.
While government and it’s forces expect the journalist in delivering content to attribute all the burnings, killings, raping and maiming of civilians to secessionist movement fighters, the fighters themselves expect you to attribute same to government forces. Once that is not done, they put their knees on your neck.
While government and it’s forces expect the journalist in delivering content to establish that everything is under control in the two English speaking regions, the activists and fighters expect you to establish that they are ‘wining fatly’ and that only few pockets of resistance are remaining for them to take total control. Anything short of that, they would kneel on your kneck so you no longer breathe.
While government and it’s forces expect the journalist in delivering content to report that all those they kill, including women and children, are ‘terrorists’ fighters, the fighters themselves expect the journalist to report that they were ‘innocent’ civilians going about their business. Once that is not done, they put their knees on your neck.
We can go on and on and on….
But one thing is clear. Covering the four years escalating Anglophone conflict has been more complex and complicated for journalists living and working in the two English speaking regions than covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may just be over land, the Anglophone conflict is not just over land but also over the people who inhabit it.
Covering such a conflict by indigenous reporters becomes the more complicated and intriguingly sticky given that both sides to the conflict claim strongly to have history on their side.
While it’s enough for government and it’s forces to treat any investigative journalist in the two English speaking regions as providing information to the separatist fighters about the military, it suffices for fighters or their supporters to see a journalist standing with a military personnel and concludes that s/he was providing vital information on them. What follows in both cases is their knees on your neck.
After completing his tour reporting the Arab- Israeli conflict, Clifton Daniel, Chief New York Times Correspondent for the Middle East in the 60s concluded that: ‘ the words a reporter uses invariably places the Correspondent on one side of the controversy or the other’. In a conflict like ours, Journalists who try to do their work fairly are accused by each side of unfairly favouring the other.
Given the complex and complicated situation, journalists living and working in the North West and South West Regions, and who are supposed to be objective and independent, delivering reporting that is as close to the ‘real truth’ as humanly possible, are unfortunately treated by both sides as biased. Beyond this, there seem to be a noticeable decline in public trust on the news content journalists deliver. Even though the public’s perception of bias reporting in the media is also based on their own biases, it must be said that no journalist can rise above his or her society. People turn to view media coverage in the conflict zone from the perspective of their own bias. People turn to view bias in media content that disagrees with their own views and fairness in content that supports their views.
But, truth be told: Criticism of the media from all sides is not a sure sign that the media are performing well. Although Journalists may be trained in such practices as objectivity and fairness, they have a human tendency to favour those views and principles that they consider to be ‘right’. For that reason, bias sometimes, creeps into both news and opinion without the journalist recognizing it.
Despite these shortcomings, and given the critical role journalists play in helping the public understand the reasons and demands made by both parties in every conflict, it is still in the interest of government and restoration fighters to take their knees off the nakes of Anglophone journalists.
The Muteff Boy’s Take, (on my birthday)