Police in the capital, Yaoundé, have forced a popular radio station off the air and confiscated its equipment over commentary critical of the government during a call-in program, according to local journalists.
Magic FM is the third broadcaster summarily closed by authorities within a week in response to critical coverage of public demonstrations fueled by a rise in prices and President Paul Biya’s bid to seek another term in
office, according to CPJ research.
Armed soldiers surrounded the offices of Magic FM at 11 a.m. local time as two officers of Cameroon’s gendarme corps entered the newsroom without warrant and ordered staff to surrender their mobile phones, Deputy Sports Editor Patrice Kamdem said. Kamdem, who was participating in an editorial meeting at the time, said the agents proceeded to confiscate key broadcasting equipment, including computers and microphones.
Editor-in-Chief Roger Kiyeck said that officers accused the station of
“broadcasting irresponsibly,” and inciting tensions in connection with
critical commentary of the government during his morning call-in program,
“Magic Attitude.” Several anonymous callers today criticized the
government during Magic’s program in response to a brief presidential address to the nation on Wednesday following deadly protests, according to local journalists. At least 17 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters since Saturday, Agence France-Presse reported.
As security forces raided Magic FM, Communications Minister Jean-Pierre
Biyiti Bi Essam summoned representatives of the national media to his
office, warning journalists to moderate the tone of their coverage,
according to local journalists.
“It is not the role of security forces to police radio air waves,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “This crude act of intimidation against Magic FM exposes the government’s attempt to cow the free press into self-censorship over coverage of a critical national debate. We call on authorities to return Magic FM’s equipment immediately and allow the
station to broadcast freely.”
Magic FM, a leading station in Yaoundé that partners with the U.S.
government-funded Voice of America, is known for its pointed political
coverage, according to Janvier Njikam, local coordinator of the Cameroon
Employed Journalists Trade Union.
The closure of Magic FM followed last week’s back-to-back closures of
leading broadcasters Equinoxe Télévision, and its sister station Radio
Equinoxe, in connection with their pointed coverage of Cameroon’s national crisis.