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Cameroon19 July 2005

Government lifts ban on Freedom FM

Reporters Without Borders today hailed communication minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo’s decision to remove the government seals from the entrance to the studios of Freedom FM on 14 July, ending a two-year ban on the privately-owned radio station.

"The end of this grim period for Freedom FM is good news for press freedom in Cameroon and we reiterate our support for Pius Njawé, the station’s founder, in his campaign to broadcast with complete freedom," the organisation said.

The station is to receive a provisional authorisation to resume broadcasting soon, following an agreement between its representatives and the government. The minister has withdrawn a complaint accusing the station of "illegally creating a communications company," while Njawé has withdrawn a complaint to the African Commission for Human Rights.

Njawé said being forced to close by the government since May 2003 has been a "financial catastrophe" for the station. Equipment has been badly damaged by water leaks that could not be repaired because no one was allowed inside. Two thirds of the equipment will have to be replaced, requiring an initial investment of 60 million CFA francs (about 92,000 euros).

Members of the mobile intervention unit sealed Freedom FM’s studios on 23 May 2003, just as the station, which is part of the Le Messager press group, was about to begin broadcasting. Njawé has been imprisoned several times for criticising President Paul Biya and his government, above all in the late 1990s.

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