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NewSETA,  with  support  from  the  Commonwealth  Foundation  is conducting a research which envisages several improvements in access to information and the legal  framework  on  social  communication  in  Cameroon.  More specifically, the project will examine existing media laws, identify limitations on access to information and provide specific recommendations for developing  and  implementing  media  laws  that  are  in  compliance  with international standards and good practice on the right of access to information.

This project which was launched in July 2023 has as main focus to ameliorate the ecosystem of the right to freedom of expression and access to information through research, advocacy and legal reforms. This project arises from persistent needs expressed by actors and stakeholders in the field relating to deficiencies, lacunae and gaps pertaining to freedom of access to information in Cameroon. The project will carry out research to establish a baseline for the development of legal reforms proposals. The project will galvanize support among the coalition of actors and sector stakeholders to advocate legal reforms with members of parliament and the senate to ameliorate the right to information in Cameroon. The project will last for 2 years and hopes to ultimately resolve the prevailing challenges in the area of access to information in Cameroon.

In this Light, today December 18th 2023, NewSETA organized a strategic Focus Group Discussion in Yaoundé, which brought together a representative from the National Communication Council, CSO leaders, members of the press and the academia. The purpose of this meeting was to explore existing standards of freedom of access to information and share experiences and best practices on facilitating freedom and access to information. This is a second strategic meeting that will kick-start research which will explore new opportunities to galvanize stakeholder efforts, and push for legal reforms on this issue post-research.

Context and Background

In Cameroon, the right  to freedom of  expression  and its  corollary  –  access  to information,  is constrained  by  an  inadequate  legislative  framework  and  a  combative  policy  environment. Despite the provisions of existing laws such as the 1990 Freedom of Social Communication Act which aim at promoting freedom of social communication, they still fall short of guaranteeing access to information and freedom of expression in many respects. These shortcomings have been  reified  by  advances  in  technology  and  demands  for  greater  conformity  with  open governance practices by citizens around the world.

Cameroon’s law on mass communication is over 30 years old and no longer adapted to the new demands of information flow. Meanwhile recent laws to regulate the cyber space (the 2010 cyber  security  and  cybercrime  law)  and  the  2014  anti-terrorism  law  opened  a  new  era  of  problems in the expression of fundamental freedoms due to their more restrictive outlook.

As a result, many citizens continue to witness difficulties in requests for public information and mounting threats against actors in the information space have become the new political reality. These challenges justify the growing demand by many Cameroonians, especially journalists, for a review of media laws in the country that not only broadens the right to free expression and facilitates access, but also for the safety and protection of information sources and journalists themselves