Privately-owned radio station Freedom FM’s equipment was put
under seal by police in May 2003. In an effort to recover his equipment,
station owner Pius Njawé initiated legal action. A Douala court is expected
to rule on the case on 19 September.
Reporters Without Borders has urged Communications Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo to take measures to ensure that the equipment is returned to the station and to allow Freedom FM to broadcast freely in Cameroon. Since Cameroonian authorities recently decided to liberalise the audio-visual sector, it stands to reason, in Reporters Without Borders’ view, that they should accept the applications of all those who wish to launch radio or television stations, regardless of their editorial line.
On 23 May, on the eve of Freedom FM’s expected launch, police officers
sealed the station’s offices, preventing anyone from entering the building.
The station’s managers were not given authorisation to enter their offices
in order to service the station’s equipment and shelter it from humidity,
which is especially intense in the region. Njawé has repeatedly warned that
these measures are preventing the station from acquiring advertising
revenues, damaging its bottom line and threatening its very survival.
Freedom FM has also been forced to contninue to pay rent on its sealed
premises, further damaging the station’s financial outlook.
Freedom FM is a member of Le Messager press group. Njawé has been imprisoned several times in recent years, notably in the late 1990s, for criticising
President Paul Biya’s regime.