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Veteran Journalist, Peter Essoka, in legal hot waters for sanctioning xenophobic reporter

The President of the National Communication Council (NCC) and ace Journalist, Peter Essoka, has been slammed a suspended six months sentence and fined FCFA 17 million by the Court of First Instance in Ngoumou, Mefou and Akono Division of the Centre Region for penalising a xenophobic journalist.

Peter Essoka, NCC Boss

The Journalist was sanctioned for allegedly propagating hate speeches and anti-Anglophone information on a Yaoundé-based television channel.

In the heat of the Anglophone Crisis, the Journalist cast stigma on Anglophones in Yaoundé, when he said every Anglophone is suspected terrorist.

While condemning such hate speech as Chair of the National Communication Council, Peter Essoka in a media outing, told Radio France International (RFI) that such utterances are dangerous, given that, they were made during trying moments in Cameroon.

He cautioned journalists to be careful with what they say on air at this moment to avoid playing the ugly role Radio Milles Collines played in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The NCC boss sanctioned the journalist, as a move to deter others from making similar hate speech and propaganda that could further widen the gap between citizens in a country in which a problem of identity has become a national issue.

In retaliation, the authorities of the television station in question immediately accused the NCC boss of referring to them as Radio Milles Collines and dragged him to Court for defamation.

The case dragged on in Ngoumou for eight months until on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, that the Court handed down its verdict.

The Court slammed a suspended sentence on the NCC boss in absentia. The Court also asked Essoka to pay FCFA 15 million as damage to the media house and FCFA 2 million to the Court as expenses.

Critics have criticised the media house which they say went to seek equity with dirty hands because it had never respected any of the sanctions of the NCC.

The NCC was created by Presidential decree in 2012.

Origin of Squabbles

Prior to the actions of the NCC, a group of about 50 Anglophone Journalists filed a complaint to the NCC against the Television Station and one of its journalists for emitting hate speech in one of their programmes.

The NCC examined the case and suspended the journalist for six-month. The journalist and the TV station snubbed the NCC sanction, mocked the Council and its members and went to Court, alleging that the Peter Essoka-led Council did not have the moral authority to sanction them.

Meanwhile, President Biya created the NCC in 2012 to regulate the media in Cameroon, but the outfit has become a victim of some power brokers within the same Biya Government. Even the administrative authorities that are charged with executing the Council’s decisions seem to have shirked their responsibility. The television station is reportedly backed in its anti-professional practice by a group of strong men in the Biya Government, who are considered as unshakable.

©THE NATIONAL TIMES NEWS