Communication minister suspends TV station

Communication minister suspends TV station

Reporters Without Borders calls on the government to explain
yesterday’s closure of the Equinoxe TV, a privately-owned station based
in the commercial capital of Douala. Communication minister Emmanuel
Béyiyi Bi Essam said it was being shut down for failing pay the
required bond of 100 millions CFA francs (150,000 euros) for an
operating licence.

“Since the broadcasting sector was opened up in 2005, no TV or
radio station has complied with all the formalities imposed by the
government, but the government says nothing if that is in its
interest,” the press freedom organisation said. “The financial grounds
cited for suspending Equinoxe TV seem to be just a pretext for
harassing a news media that has criticised the government’s decision to
amend the constitution. We call on the government to lift this
suspension so that a democratic debate can continue.”

At 1 pm
yesterday, the communication minister issued an order for the closure
of Equinoxe TV on the grounds that its owner, Séverin Tchounkeu, had
not paid the required licence bond and was therefore operating
illegally. A district police superintendent and a superintendent from
the Rapid Intervention Unit personally came and placed seals on the TV
station’s entrances at 4:15 pm.

Yesterday’s closure comes a few
day after Equinoxe TV broadcast a debate about a proposed
constitutional amendment that would end the limit on the number of
terms a president can serve. The station, which has always opposed the
amendment, had already received admonishments and threats from the
authorities in Douala and Yaoundé, the capital.

Tchounkeu told Reporters Without Borders he was hoping for a rapid evolution in the government’s attitude.