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Anti-corruption Officials, Journalists Disagree On Patriotism 

By Melvis Kimbi & Edith Etongo*

Members of the National Anti-corruption Commission, known by its French acronym CONAC, have traded accusations with journalists over who is responsible for the country’s poor image abroad.

The conflict was sparked by a call on journalists to embark on "patriotic journalism" in order to give a good image of Cameroon abroad. Paul Tessa, the Chair of CONAC, made the call recently while closing a three-day seminar on "The media, responsibility, patriotism and Cameroon’s image". 

During the occasion, journalists crossed swords with public authorities over who has the responsibility of giving a good image to Cameroon. It was in this perspective that the CONAC Chair said journalists shoulder enormous responsibility in giving the country a good image to foreigners. He said a journalist is first of all a citizen, who is supposed to be patriotic and should make sure that his country is not negatively affected by his reports. To him, it was only incumbent on journalists to practice patriotic journalism because that is what obtains in other countries of the world.

But, most of the journalists who presented papers during the seminar took great exception to the CONAC Chair’s point of view. For instance, the Publisher of "MUTATIONS", Alain Blaise Batongue argued that a journalist is a reporter who simply relays events. Going by him, blaming journalists for simply reporting on acts of corruption by public officials is equal to blaming a simple messenger.

The Publisher of "Le Jour", Haman Mana, supported this view, stating that those who are responsible for Cameroon’s poor image are the ruling elite who have misused and mismanaged Cameroon’s resources in various acts of corruption.

Nevertheless, Yerima Kini Nsom, Yaoundé Bureau Chief of Cameroon POSTline, said as a mirror and watchdog of the society, it is even more compelling on the journalist to be endowed with love for his country. "Journalism and patriotism", he said "are no strange bed fellows". Journalists who respect the cardinal norms of fairness, objectivity, responsibility in line with professional ethics easily hearken to the virtue of patriotism without much ado, according to Nsom.

After a proper diagnosis of journalism practised in Cameroon, both parties were unanimous that journalists need to make more efforts in respecting the ethics of the profession. Participants were also unanimous that government was treating the private press as the bête noire of the regime by barring them from having access to official sources of information.

One journalist pointed out that President Paul Biya’s press charity begins abroad because he has never granted a press conference to the national press. That is why participants called on the government to be more open to the private press and allow them to cover institutions like the PM’s office, the army, the presidency, the police, the gendarmerie and other government institutions.

(UB Journalism Students On Internship)

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