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Journalism in Cameroon: A High-Risk and Dangerous Profession?

Book Chapter published in 2024
Aims: To map out the risks, security, and safety challenges that Cameroonian journalists face in their daily routines to ascertain whether and how such risks can be avoided, prevented, or compensated. Moreover, even though there is a wide range of research based on content produced by African journalists and disseminated by their media, the context under which journalists practice their professional activity and the impact of the risks they face on the content they produce is not often taken into account. The main interrelated questions addressed in the study are: What factors provoke intimidation, and assaults against Cameroonian journalists? Why has the media continued to expand despite the ongoing risks? Why are people still interested in becoming journalists and why do media owners choose to continue to invest in such a challenging environment? How can the risks be minimized? Should Cameroonian professional journalists be held responsible?

Main Findings

The risks, security, and safety challenges faced by Cameroonian journalists are not limited to those that appear in the rankings of international press freedom organizations. While some have an external source (government, judiciary, political & business elites, forces of law and order) and threaten those who are too inquisitive and daring, others are linked to economic and/or commercial interests or are caused by the very nature and practice of the profession itself. Thus, the prevention and protection of journalists against daily risks, security, and safety challenges incorporate not only a deep understanding of the complexity of their tribulations but equally a more nuanced and mitigated picture than what is often presented in international press freedom rankings. I argue that the restrictive environment under which journalists operate in Cameroon has a serious impact not only on the role of the media as a public watchdog but also on its ability to serve democratic ideals. Furthermore, it has a chilling effect on the way newsrooms operate and fosters a culture of self-censorship, which impinges on the broader rights of society to access and obtain information of public interest. In other words, the safety of journalists as they carry out their daily responsibilities to gather and report the news is no longer a concern of individual nation-states, but a global concern. As we have seen in the case of Cameroon, the commitment of states to press freedom and freedom of expression has been found deficient. This failure on the part of nation-states and journalists as an occupational group partly accounts for the increase in the number of journalists assaulted, harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and imprisoned in Cameroon and across the globe.