What happened next: Victor Ndoki - Cameroon
Victor Ndoki is the editor of Cameroon newspaper “Les Nouvelles du Pays”. In April 2009 he published an article reporting that the Minister of Communication had deposited funds intended for the visit of Pope Benedict the XVI into his personal account. Two years later defamation charges were brought against him. He sought MLDI's assistance and in January 2013 the case was abandoned. We catch up with him to find out what the impact of the case has been.
Describe the challenges facing journalists working in Cameroon?
The criminalisation of journalism is an on-going concern in Cameroon. The independence of journalists is seriously restricted, which is preventing citizens from finding out about the true reality of the country. Media professionals must resist financial and political lobbies in order to seek and publish the truth. The poor salaries on offer to journalists also expose them to a lot of temptation. This creates suspicion and is discrediting journalists and the media.
How did the charges that were brought against you affect you, both professionally and personally?
The fear of being sentenced for publishing information, even though the information was true and verifiable, greatly disturbed my professional and private life. To be in prison would mean leaving my job and my family. Also, journalists don’t have the financial capabilities to pay fines. I lived under constant stress until the verdict was revealed.
How important was the support you received from MLDI?
The support I received from MLDI was a significant aid, helping me to prepare for my trial with confidence. Without this support, given the limited financial means available to media organisations in Cameroon, I'm sure I would not have had this positive verdict. This support has allowed me to fully pay my lawyer’s fees.
What impact has the case had on the way you go about your work?
I love my job, but I'm not suicidal. My determination is always strong, but I know I can find myself behind bars, unfairly, just for doing my job. I am more careful about the words I use; I check and crosscheck the information more than before. Our analyses are still sharp, but we can never feel confident that the worst will not happen at any time.
Since your case has been dropped has anything changed for you or for other journalists reporting on political issues?
The authorities have found a new way of silencing journalists who denounce the government’s excesses. They accuse them of not being patriotic, or of acting in a way that sullies the image of the country abroad. This strategy is aimed at giving journalists a bad conscience. So in addition to fighting for their own survival and that of their profession, journalists must also protect their conscience against attacks carried out by politicians.
Are you involved in any campaigns to tackle these problems?
I have recently become Chairman of the Association of Newspaper Editors in Cameroon (GEJC). The association aims to set up an economic and legislative framework for the development of independent newspapers in Cameroon in order to improve the editorial content of newspapers and to support access to information and media pluralism. We also hope to develop partnerships with international organisations in order to exchange experiences. To make this happen, we will rely on MLDI to carry our voices to similar organisations in order to facilitate the exchange and transfer of knowledge and ideas.