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Let’s Have A Sane Press For The Presidential Poll – CAMASEJ President 

Interviewed By Walter Wilson Nana

The National President of Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists, CAMASEJ, CRTV’s Tricia Oben, is on her feet to ensure that Cameroonian journalism is not tainted as the journalists and the rest of the nation buildup to the expected Presidential poll in the country.

In this exclusive interview, Tricia Oben invites Cameroonian journalists to be professional and ethically upright as they carry out their duties. She also talked about the issue of Press Cards and CAMASEJ general assembly of Saturday, July 9 in Limbe. In her opinion CAMASEJ is now an association to reckon with. Excerpts:

How will you describe CAMASEJ under your reign, so far?

I will say that CAMASEJ is fast coming out of the doldrums compared to the association we inherited. It is, unequivocally, the strongest association of journalists in the country today.

What impact have you made on the journalists, since you took office?

Most communication agencies and media houses have often been criticised for not communicating. I believe if there is one thing that we have instituted it is dialogue. Dialogue in every form and we have tried to promote this using all new communication technologies available.

My executive and I have established that it is possible to work with people with whom we do not agree. We are part of one family. And even though we are a family with divergent views, we are still bound together as English Speakers as we share common hopes and a common culture. What happens to us is up to us. 

What comes of this association will be determined not by whether we can sit together for a general assembly, but whether we can work together tomorrow. We have given the association a bigger dimension by making ourselves known in all government and private circles as an association to be reckoned with.

One of our primary missions when we took over was to give the association a new, bigger and better image. We visited all the chapters, held talks with authorities in different regions as well as some Ministers, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Managers, civil society, activists, media organs and more. We have made English-speaking Journalists believe in themselves and in what they do and the solidarity bond now is stronger than before. This is very important.

What have been some of your challenges?

There have been many. The most important challenge has been the fact that we have till date not been able to set up an ethics commission. There is so much going on in the media that needs to be put right. It is amazing that we as a society can survive without such a commission to regulate our media.

Another challenge has been organising the chapters and defining the roles between regional chapters and the national body. We have a series of projects lined up for which we are yet to get funding, one of which is the CAMASEJ Awards.

How do you intend to overcome them?

We are poised for progress.  Two years have gone by quickly since we took over and during that time we packed it in. Four seminars, a trip to Lagos, numerous high level consultations and more. The ethics commission is top on our agenda for the next few years if we have the go ahead of the general assembly.

You know the general assembly is supreme but I am convinced that this issue of ethics is one that everyone would like to see put in place. It is for our own credibility and it will bring us as journalists up to the level of other professionals. It is time that others stopped looking down on us and with disdain. We have an important role to play and we are doing it.

With the backing of our patrons, the government and the society as a whole, we are doing it. It is for the benefit of our country, especially at this stage of our democratic growth. It is important that we have a sane press for the up-coming Presidential Election, one that can lift its head up high and be proud of its achievements.

A few months ago we sent a number of journalists to Nigeria. The idea was simply to see how other colleagues work, under what conditions and how they overcome their challenges. Their stories on return have been an inspiration for the rest of us. We intend to do more.

Where are we with the Press Cards issue?

I am not in a position to give you an authentic answer to that question. I have seen the Minister of Communication regularly and discussed this issue. The issue I believe will be resolved soon. But we also examined the possibility of having something that identifies us as CAMASEJ members after all; we are a legally recognised association. However, this will not put us in conflict with the official Government procedure.

The first general assembly since you took over and your executive members will hold on Saturday, July 9, in Limbe, what will be the highlights?

Our CAMASEJ constitution has been tossed around for too long even before we took over. We want to put an end to this and adopt the draft constitution that was prepared during the reign of the last executive. That is the most important point. We will discuss finances, the state of the association and then other points will follow, of course.

What are your expectations from your peers?

I am not an idealist and I know it is not possible for everything to be perfect. But I think after these two years, what I really would like to see more is cooperation and communication. I believe it is only as a team that we can overcome hurdles.

I would like everyone to be a part of the association and not have people peeking from the outside waiting to see what direction we are going or what form we are taking. Everyone should jump on the band wagon now and head out to where the challenges are before they are left behind.

Perhaps one of my biggest expectations from all my peers is greater professional responsibility and strict respect for ethics. This is the only way through which we can achieve credibility from the public we serve and the other arms of the state.

The way forward for Cameroonian journalism, especially those using the Queen’s language, which you have the privilege to head for now?

There is only one way forward. That is to continue to work and to continue to propagate our Anglo-Saxon values. A lot of it is being compromised and we are accepting things that we never would have thought possible before. Ultimately, I know that if we are organised and if we are faithful to our beliefs, we will not falter.