Saturday, 3 September 2016

Why Massa Tok Tok, Others Resigned From Equinoxe… Management Threatens Your Reporter**

The dust is yet to settle since information on the resignation of the famous presenter of “Pidgin News” on Equinoxe Television, Bonakouamouang, Douala Cameroon,  broke out, September 2, 2016.

Televiewers and  social media critics have been raising lots of questions with regard to a resignation some consider as one too many. Many because of Njiayouom Thobie Christian II  a.k.a  Massa Tok Tok’s contribution to the revolution of News presentation in Pidgin language  in Cameroon. 

Was it another signal that all has not been well with Equinoxe Television and to an extent the Cameroonian private press.?


Sources close to Massa Tok Tok attributed his resignation to the non-payment or irregular payment of his Social Insurance Fund dues for more than 10 years he served as reporter and then editor in chief of the English service of Equinoxe. “He told me that he verified at CNPS and realised that his dues have not been paid up to date .When he met management for explanations, he was threatened with dismissal,” recounted a journalist who did not wish to be named. 

Others said he had long wanted to leave because of the alleged morose atmosphere in the media house that has caused many before him to quit for better opportunities.  

Journalists are citing among otherallegations, poor and shabby of media workers, long probation on employment periods (some for up to 11 months), no contract and in cases where there are contracts, journalists do not have copies. The problems of lack of affiliation at CNPS came up several times,  threats of dismissals, long working hours for low pay, abusive suspensions and dismissal of   journalists were also mentioned.

Contacted for reasons of his resignation, Tok Tok’s only message was, “I don demmisionez depuis Tuesday” (I resigned since Tuesday “ -August 31 2016),” without any further precision.
Some journalists who have worked for Equinoxe seem to confirm some of the allegations. “For those who have worked at Equinoxe (I did in 2008) you’d be surprised that Tok Tok still kept the faith till now. When I worked at Equinoxe it was an epitome of Anglophone –francophone discrimination in the media landscape. 
You have people who will dress up so neatly to appear on set but would not boast of a single hundred coin the next minute to thumb a lift home. If Tok Tok resigns today, I guess he must have had it up to the hilt,” a journalist, Eugene Che, wrote in a facebook post shortly after Tok Tok’s resignation.

Although several other colleagues in private messages expressed surprise with the resignation of Tok Tok, some argued that he was a man of the “Equinox system,” and should not behave as if he was now the  victim.
In our attempt to get the management of Equinoxe react to the serious allegations of abuse and violation of rights of journalists eight questions were addressed to the Director General of Equinoxe Television, who doubles as the Chairman of the Cameroon National Press Card Commission, Severin Tchounkeu, the Director of Exploitation, Theophile Biamou and the Editor-in-Chief Eric Kouamo.  The questions (verbatim) were:


1 I read on a forum for journalists that Equinoxe is urgently looking for a new "pidgin news presenter." Can this be confirmed?

2 After confirming the resignation of Christ Thobi, (today) Sep 2 2015, it is rumored that his Social Insurance CNPS, dues for 15 years have not been paid by your company reason for which he resigned.  Is this the cause of his resignation?

3 Several media critics are saying that the resignation of many of your senior staff, (from Albert LeDoux Yondjeu, Tamfu Harrison, Charles Akoh, Polycarpe Essomba, Martin Camus Mimb, Nathalie Wakam, Carole Yemelong, Maria Collete Mefire, to Ernest Chi Cho and others) is due to poor treatment of journalists. Allegations of maltreatment include long probation on employment periods (some for 11 months), no contracts and in cases where there are contracts journalists do not have copies. There are also complains of   their non -affiliation at CNPS, irregular salaries, abusive suspensions and dismissals and threats of dismissals on journalists. What do you have to say about such allegations?

4 It has been observe that journalists from other radio and TV programs are guests on Equinoxe TV and Radio regularly but journalists from Equinoxe have been allegedly forbidden to be guests on other media stations. Is that the practice there at Equinoxe? If yes could that not be a suppression of their rights to speech?

5 We read on social media that one of your former employees, Thomas Awah Junior, fell sick was dismissed thereafter. He took your media house to a court in Douala and won. The court has asked you to pay him 1.5 million frs since 2015 for abusive dismissal. What is the case with this former employee of yours? He is complaining to other colleagues that he has not been paid? When would you begin paying him the damages?

6 It is alleged that when a staff resigns from your company he can never return there to ask for an attestation of service because it would never be given. I say this because one of your former employers rushed to me for assistance which I could not offer in that regard.  Is that the practice?

7 What is the future of Equinox Radio and TV with the recent resignation of Massa Tok Tok?

8 As Chairman of the National Press commission of Cameroon, what happens to a journalist who owned the card and is no longer practicing the journalism profession.

The Director of Exploitation answered none of the questions and referred to this reporter as an idiot, reminding him to write what he likes. Theophile Biamou who is popularly known by his staff as “Mboroukous,”  (because of his reported torturing tendencies according to some journalists of Equinoxe) resorted to threats .
 “Que s'est il passé avec la famille de Aurore Claude Bayema?... je peux te gêner là où tu es en Azanie si je me faches tu es dehors,”  what happened to the Aurore Claude Bayema family ? I can worry you where you are in Azanie. If I get angry you are lost,” ) Biamou wrote in one of his mails.  He latter forwarded an email or a former staff  wishing to return, as if to give the impression that Equinox was better.

The Director General of Equinox who focused curiously in response on the payment of CNPS dues, said all the allegations were false. 

Severin Tchounckeu said our arguments based on inexactitudes when he wrote: “vous vous basez sur des inexactitudes pour m interroger... aussi je vous informe donc que l essentiel des faits si ce n est la totalité de ce qui fonde votre questionnaire est faux.

(You are based on inexactitudes to question me.  The basic, if not, the totality of what you build your questionnaire is false),” he argued. He claims that the company is up to date with social insurance contributions when he wrote again: “les entreprises dont j ai la charge ne sont redevable d aucun centimes tant auprès de la Cnps que d aucune autre institution…nous sommes une des rares entreprises privées de la presse à avoir tout son personnel immatriculé et à jour des cotisations. 

(The companies under my supervision do not owe a dime at the CNPS and any other institution.  We are one of the rare private press organs which has all its employees affiliated to the Social Insurance Fund and their contributions up to date,)” he stated.

The Cameroon Journalists Trade Union strongly argues that Severin Tchounkeu’s declarations about the Social Insurance Fund dues were not accurate.

“We (SNJC) carried out investigations at the Social Insurance Fund. The last contributions are dated 2013. Verification has been made six months, The lawyers of former employees (who remain anonymous because of judicial proceeding against Equinoxe are still at the labour offices are in the courts over their social insurance dues) have verified that,” said Denis Nkwebo SNJC President.

The responses for a request for information from CNPS officials were still being awaited at the time of filling in this report.

Equinoxe officials did not explain when they would begin the payment of the rights of Thomas Awah Junior, whom the a court in Douala ruled  was abusively dismissed. 

Post Script:  All documentation with regard  to insults and  threats on this reporter have been forwarded to his lawyers, the Ministry of Justice, Cameroon's National Communication Council  and trade unions and associations for the defense of rights of journalists for appropriate action. Nous y reviendrons! 

1 comment:

  1. Touché mon ami. Touché. This is what journalism is supposed to be. Begin by cleaning up the sector before moving on to criticize the government.