By Doh James Sonkey
Government has finally paid out the sum of FCFA 56 million as subsidy to the private press. Media men and women were in shock and disbelief last February 2, 2023 when the amount was announced by the Minister of Communication, Rene Emmanuel Sadi as he chaired the 4th sessionof the National Commission for assistance to private enterprises.
In reaction to the announced amount, representatives of private media organs staged a walk out in protest of the disdainful treatment accorded the private media by the state following the drastic drop in the amount which used to be FCFA 120 million in previous years. It took several hours of negotiation for the representatives of the private media to call off the protest and continue deliberations at the meeting.
The Minister of Communication disclosed earlier that some 76 media organs in Cameroon applied for government assistance. He said, amongst the organs, 70 are newspapers and 6 are online media platforms.
Minister Sadi explained that the delay and drastic reduction in the amount set aside for private media aid for 2022 is because “our country is not indifferent to the consequences of the multiple crises that the world is going through and which greatly affects the economy, hampering the efforts made by government to carry out its activities”.
He added that: “The late release of the funds devoted to support the private press as well as its drastic reduction is among the consequences of what I just mentioned”. While promising better days ahead, the Minister, called on members of the media aid commission to take their job seriously in examining the various files of who will benefit from the government’s financial aid to the press. “I urge you to work in serenity, objectivity and impartiality, virtues that have always characterised this gathering. The objective is to contribute to make press companies more viable in order to help the actors. The achievement of the goals also depends on certain prerequisites including the reorganization of professional practices. I can assure you all that that I am willing relentlessly to pursue the plea made some time ago for a substantial increase before the establishment of a more prominent support mechanism to media of the private sector.” M
The Publisher and Editor-in-chief of The Guardian Post daily newspaper, Ngah Christian Mbipgo, lamented over the amount disbursed to the private press. Ngah, who represented the private English language newspapers said, “even if they give us 1 billion, it will not be sufficient for 76 media organs. I lack words to express myself. I felt like crying when I heard the minister announcing the amount. This is a big slap on the face of the private media in Cameroon. It will go down in history that today is a black day for the private media in Cameroon. For the state to dish out 56 million FCFA and announcing it in public is a big shame to Cameroon. With this amount, we will have newspaper publishers who will go home with less than 300,000 FCFA. I don’t know what that can do.”
According to the Director of Private Media and Advertising, Ngankak Kisito, measures are being taken to make sure that the exigencies of the private press are attained in foreseeable future.
“This however doesn’t mean that the government is neglecting the private sector. It is just a constraint and everything is being done by the Minister and his collaborators to make sure that the amount of money witnesses an increase in the years to come”.