Centre de Recherche en Information et Communication Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Freedom of expression and the free flow of information are core ingredients for the development of a democratic society. Journalists serve as independent monitors of power, ensuring transparency and accountability for public and governmental authorities. The media also provides a forum for discussion and debate, helps build social consensus, and provides a voice to the voiceless. My research focuses on the development of press freedom and professional journalism in Cameroon since the country’s democratic reform which started in the 1990s. I am interested in how press freedom and professional journalism have become formalized and organized through processes of legislation and institutionalization. How and to what extent has the government in Cameroon provided an enabling environment for the growth and development of a free and autonomous press? Moreover, I also want to gain a deeper and sharper insight into how press freedom and professional autonomy are being perceived by the media professionals themselves. I am interested in how Cameroonian journalists are performing their professional roles and the extent to which they are free or feel free and autonomous to do so. In order to operate effectively, journalists require safety and security, as well as an enabling working environment.
Definition of journalists' safety
It is the ability and extent to which journalists and media professionals are able to receive, produce and share information or go about their daily routines without facing threats to their physical, psychological, digital, and financial integrity and well-being. Since these threats are experienced in the course of performing journalistic activities, all four dimensions, that is physical and psychological, digital, and financial constitute an integral part of journalists’ occupational safety. Physical threats include inter-alia torture, beating, sexual assault, abduction, assassination, exile, arrest, and detention, etc. Threats to emotional well-being are psychological and may include bullying, intimidation, coercion, sexual harassment, ridicule, and traumatizing work assignments. Digital threats include various hacking and surveillance attacks as well as limiting or blocking access to information, sources, and audiences. Journalists also require financial safety. This presupposes good wages, work contracts, job security, social security benefits, and health insurance schemes to cover work-related risks. Threats are harmful in their own right because they compromise journalists’ safety and their ability to perform their duties and serve their respective societies. Financial threats often result in a chilling effect. On the individual level, precarity manifests in unemployment, the loss of income or position, professional standing, and reputation.
Future plans for research on journalists' safety
I have three main research ideas at the moment. I am currently working on a national survey of Cameroonian professional journalists. This is a follow-up to previous studies I carried out in 2011 and 2016. The current survey addresses amongst others key questions and concerns informing the safety and security of Cameroonian journalists as they perform their activities. I am currently administering the questionnaires to the journalists. Furthermore, I plan to conduct more detailed research on the case of Martinez Zogo, Managing Director of the privately owned broadcast media, Amplitude FM. He was found dead on January 22, 2023. His body was dumped in an empty plot on the outskirts of Yaounde. Martinez endured substantial physical and psychological abuse: he was sodomized with a stick, and subjected to electric shocks. In ‘Journalism under Duress in Conflict Zones’, I intend to explore the lack of safety and security for journalists in Cameroon, especially journalists who are performing their duties in the Anglophone North West and South West Province of Cameroon which is currently fighting for separation from Francophone Cameroon. The pressure on the safety of these journalists will prevent the public from receiving quality information.