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Sone Bayen: Journalism, I May Return 

By Ernest Sumelong — Franklin Sone Bayen says he is recusing himself to avoid conflict of interest or professional dishonesty. The journalist with varied experience in newspaper, TV and radio and across local and international media is now into corporate communication for a new American agro-industrial company. By his ethical judgment, his new duties are incompatible with reporting and commenting the news fairly.

“I can’t pretend I can be a fair reporter or editor, especially for a particular media outlet while liaising fairly and equitably with several media organizations for a major institution,” said Sone Bayen. The journalist who first wrote newspaper articles as a schoolboy 23 years ago, has been 16 years in practice though he considers himself still at middle level in the profession.

He is thus walking away from a rich career that can only be wished by many. He has had a fair share of opportunities to travel abroad for professional training and assignments. He has also had the rare privilege of working at an American newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as an Alfred Friendly Fellow and had a stint at the Voice of America (VOA) headquarters in Washington DC.

His wealth of experience in international media includes reporting for the English service of Radio France International (RFI), Radio Vatican and collaborating with the German news agency (Deutsche Presse Agentur) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Back home, he has held frontline reporting and influential editorial positions at The Post, The Herald and Weekly Post newspapers and been Editor-in-Chief at Radio Siantou, Radio Reine and New TV all in Yaounde. He has also been sport consultant on CRTV. He later created his own media group, publishing among others This is Sport newspaper.

Sone Bayen read journalism and mass communication in the University of Buea and the Advanced School of Mass Communication (ASMAC) in Yaounde and has a Masters degree pending in Peace and Development studies at the Protestant University of Central Africa. He has advised several institutions and individuals on communication strategies.

So does this corporate communication job signal the end of journalism for a man who often describes himself as a militant of journalism? “Consider I’m on a sabbatical or call me Journalist-on-leave," he said. "It would go for as long as it takes. Yet, I’m still preoccupied as executive member of the journalist association CAMASEJ to watch over the quality of our journalism."

On why he is taking a break from a profession he so adores, he said, "I’m not one for unorthodox practices in whatever I do. Those who know me can testify to that. Running a newspaper is more than meets the eye. It takes more that just being a good journalist and having managerial skills.

"In Cameroon, unfortunately, unlike it obtains in other countries, people who have the means are unwilling to support good causes. They won’t give needed financial backing to journalists with the aptitude and attitude to sustain a media product of quality. “They complain about bad journalism, but are the same ones paying bad money and providing the arsenal to professional blackmailers to excel in a field they know little about.”

He said his young newspaper O Cameroon will not be seen on the newsstands while he is on corporate communication. As for This is Sport, relatively older and better known, he says he finds no inconvenience between his new job and reporting sport which is on the softer side of news, with minimal possibilities of conflict of interest.

“Being the only specialized sport paper in English and much appreciated by readers, I’ve been under enormous pressure from fans for the past months This is Sport has not been on the newsstands. You know what sport, especially football, means to Cameroonians," he said.
But, he says, his new job takes practically all of his time awake. If only he could find reliable editors and reporters to take over the venture.

“It’s so hard to find reliable young journalists these days,” he said. “Whether they have university degrees or not, their output always leaves much to be desired. I’m not sure that is the same feeling senior editors Francis Wache and Charly Ndi Chia had when we, young editors, the late Julius Afoni, Clovis Atatah, Bouddih Adams and me, backed them up at the infancy of The Post from July 1997, though most of us were still young students of journalism in UB."

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