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Title:Cameroon's Private Press and the Politics of Survival in a Post-Authoritarian System
Authors:Land, Mitchell
Owens, Brad
Periodical:African Rural and Urban Studies
Geographic term:Cameroon
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
Politics and Government
Abstract:Since 1989, Cameroon has adopted a market democracy, including recognition of the right of citizens to organize free institutions, including independent news media. This paper looks at the role of the independently owned press, the opinions of elites on the media, and the strategies some of the newspapers have evolved in response to shifting political and economic conditions. Newspapers must struggle to maintain financial solvency, to protect journalists against press crackdowns, and to maintain credibility with a sceptical mass audience. The article is based on case studies of independent newspapers in Cameroon and structured interviews (1995) with 23 journalists and members of the elites in the cities in which the papers operate. Though journalists articulate their responsibility to the community, they appear not to be immune to editorial excesses or to threats of economic cooptation, ethnic division and extralegal repression. However, it should not surprise critics and scholars that journalism excesses occur in a country where only one voice was allowed to be heard for more than two generations. On the other hand, elites also seem to want a press system that does not necessarily fit the Western model because most support a press that should be held accountable for its excesses. Bibliogr., note.