One of the fall-outs of the World Press Freedom Day (May 03, 2021) in Cameroon is “Cameroon’s Talk” which one its initiators, Franklin Bayen, describes as “a current affairs news magazine produced by a select group of journalists, most of them former presenters or contributors to Cameroon Report over Radio Cameroon in those days of Cameroon Calling over CRTV radio today. Cameroon’s Talk is some kind of a revival of the old, engaging spirit of our radio broadcasting.” Many of those who made Radio Cameroon what it was in those days, have either long gone silent, or have long been silenced. Some have drifted into other local ventures, while others have skipped boat to greener pastures, mainly to North America.
“Cameroon’s Talk” has the merit of having brought together “bush-fallers” and “home-stayers” in a production quite reminiscent of the glorious days of radio broadcasting in Cameroon. The first “bush-faller” under whose lips Franklin Bayen thrusts his microphone is Asonglefac Nkemleke, a one-time editor-in-chief of Radio Cameroon and Station Manager of CRTV, Maroua. True to form, Asonglefac resurrects his “Letter to Grandpa” in which he laments that gerontocrats have hijacked the land, climbed the wall and pulled up the ladder behind them, thus depriving the young of reaching the top as well.
The other “bush-faller” is Ben Bongang, another CRTV “dinosaur,” as Franklin Bayen calls them. He warns journalists to master the techniques of information technology, indispensable for any news coverage these days, but warns against the facile temptation of resorting to fake news instead of carrying out investigation before reporting.
From Bamenda, Tikum Mba Azonga, a lecturer at the University of Bamenda, wonders how Cameroonian journalists can accept funding from the State and protest when the latter exacts a pound of flesh from them; after all, does “he who pays the piper, not dictate the tune.” For his part, Samson Websi decries the strict draconian laws shackling the press in Cameroon, while his colleague Gemda Buinda, laments the cankerworm of “gombo”, that is, corruption, that has sunk deep roots into the media profession in Cameroon. In his usual humorous prose, Victor Epie Ngome, “The Rambler,” rambling from Victoria, picks up the same theme of “gombo”, wondering why journalists call themselves dogs, watch dogs, [that is, “ngong” in many northwestern languages, or “ngolle” in Bakossi]. Just as ill-treated dogs catch their prey and devour it where they catch it, so do journalists who tend to grab what they can, where they can and when they can before dancing to the tune of the purse owner.
Then comes the interview with Peter Esoka, the President of the National Communications Council. A combined trio of Franklin Bayen, Gemda Buinda and Samson Websi fire a barrage of questions from every angle. Understandably, Mr. Esoka refuses to be heard condemning the government for its Hitlerian press laws, preferring instead to accuse journalists of ‘irresponsibility’ in their profession.
One hopes that “Cameroon’s Talk” is not just another ‘flash in the pan’. If it is truly here to stay, then it has come at the right moment. After all, it falls beyond the reach of the censor’s pair of scissors, being a virtual endeavour that reaches the four corners of the universe with a mere click of a computer mouse.