The crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone regions has led numerous journalists in affected areas to quit their careers for their safety. Those who stay and insist on reporting on the crisis face threats from all sides.
Cameroonian journalists who choose to remain in the Anglophone regions increasingly prefer to report on non-controversial issues such as health, education and infrastructure and avoid discussing the ongoing conflict.
Separatists and government troops alike will not hesitate to harass authors of reports that are not in their interest. Raymond Dingana is one of many journalists who have been harassed by government troops.
"The last time I fell into the hands of the military, they almost destroyed my working tools simply because they asked me a question in French and I responded in English," Dingana told DW. "They got angry and called me all sorts of names."
Caught between the fronts
Constant armed confrontations between the regular army and separatist fighters prevent journalists from going out into the field to cover events and file reports. But that is not the only difficulty the reporters face. Fon Quinta, a journalist for Vision 4 television, has been covering the Anglophone crisis for over two years. Quinta says that her duty as a journalist is to report on events in a fair and balanced way. But this is becomig impossible. "The government will call and say: 'You're working hand in glove with the separatists'," she said. The separatists have also called her, accusing her of standing in the way of independence.
Fongoh Primus from Rainbow Radio Mbengwi agrees that journalists are faced with an impossible task. "How can I feel safe, when every day I see trigger-happy government soldiers armed to the teeth, pointing their guns at civilians and ready to kill, sometimes just for fun?" he told DW. "How can I feel safe when every day I come across drugged separatist fighters with fetish objects on their bodies carrying sophisticated weapons and ready to shoot to death any suspects?"
Self-censorship is the new normal
According to Maikem Emmanuella, radio station manager at NVEFCAM, self-censorship is now common in many newsrooms. "You do not know what to say or write," she said. Emmanuella does her job every day in a state of fear. "When writing a story, you have to be careful, especially when it concerns the crisis," she explained. "We get stories of people shot by the military, but you can't report on these cases and stories saying it was the military." With many journalists now scared of reporting, there are fears that the most critical stories in Anglophone regions will go unreported.
English-speaking communities chafe at what they see as discrimination from the French-speaking majority. The government rejects demands for autonomy and has dispatched thousands of troops in a crackdown. There are currently no open channels for a dialogue between the government and the rebels. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Cameroonian authorities have regularly tortured and held incommunicado detainees arrested in the government's crackdown on the armed separatist movement.
In October 2017, radical separatists declared the creation of the "Republic of Ambazonia," covering the two English-speaking regions incorporated into Francophone Cameroon in 1961. The declaration went largely unnoticed outside Cameroon, and "Ambazonia" — named after a bay at the mouth of the Douala River — has not been officially recognized by the international community.