The press in Cameroun is regulated by the 1990 law on social communication. Section 17 (1) (new) of the law provides, inter alia, that, where the conduct of a news media is contrary to public order and good morals, the minister in charge of territorial administration may suspend the said media. I have not been privileged to find any other provision of that law providing that some other body has concurrent jurisdiction with the minister in question.

The last but two sections of the law, (Section 88), did create a national communication council, specifying that the organization and functioning of the said council would be laid down by an executive order. A decree subsequently issued, defining the jurisdiction of the National Communication Council.

Without any necessity to go into the substance of the decree, it should be pointed out that, in the hierarchy of laws, a law in the technical sense takes precedence over an executive order. In the event of conflict between the two, the law of course prevails. One may be bold enough to say, without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, that that is the incontrovertible position of the law.

It stands to reason, ipso facto, that the jurisdiction of the National Communication Council as spelt out by a decree crumbles in the face of the unambiguous legal provision granting to the minister in charge of territorial administration exclusive jurisdiction over the suspension of news media. The council would have had concurrent jurisdiction with the minister, ratione materiae, only and only if another law had granted the National Communication Council jurisdiction to suspend news media… A decree taken in the furtherance of a law may only hopelessly purport to fly on the same plane with the law; or dastardly venture to contradict it.

As it is, the suspension of Afrique Media, as of other news media before it, was inconsistent with the law in force; and is, therefore, illegal, if need there is to emphasize in superfluity. Any member of the National Communication Council snarling and/or smarting from the urge of vendetta may simply be ignoramus.


By AYAH Paul Abine,

Supreme Court of Cameroon.

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