Cameroon has a number of independent newspapers. Censorship was abolished in 1996, but the government sometimes seizes or suspends newspapers and occasionally arrests journalists. Although a 1990 law authorizes private radio and television stations, the government has not granted any licenses as of March 1998.
The Cameroonian Government's human rights record has been improving over the years but remains flawed. There continue to be reported abuses, including beatings of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and illegal searches. The judiciary is frequently corrupt, inefficient, and subject to political influence.
Worthy of note is the fact that Cameroon is the only country in which two Constitutions are applicable side-by-side. For example, the 1972 Constitution designates the Prime Minister as constitutional successor of the Head of State in case of incapacity, death, resignation or unaccountable absence of the incumbent. Contrarily, the 1996 Constitutional Reform designates the President of the Senate as constitutional successor; but the Senate (provided for by 1996 Reform) does not exist. Apart from increasing the presidential mandate from 5 years to 7 years, very few amendments of the 1996 Constitutional Reform have been applied.
The 1972 constitution of the Republic of Cameroon as modified by 1996 reforms provides for a strong central government dominated by the executive. The president is empowered to name and dismiss cabinet members (regardless of parliamentary representation), judges, generals, provincial governors, prefects, sub-prefects, and heads of Cameroon's parastatal (about 100 state-controlled) firms, obligate or disburse expenditures, approve or veto regulations, declare states of emergency, and appropriate and spend profits of parastatal firms. The president is not required to consult the National Assembly.
All local government officials are employees of the central government's Ministry of Territorial Administration, from which local governments also get most of their budgets.
While the president, the minister of justice, and the president's judicial advisers (the Supreme Court) top the judicial hierarchy, traditional rulers, courts, and councils also exercise functions of government. Traditional courts still play a major role in domestic, property, and probate law. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. Traditional rulers receive stipends from the national government.
Following government pledges to reform the strongly centralized 1972 constitution, the National Assembly adopted a number of amendments in December 1995 which were promulgated in January 1996. The amendments call for the establishment of a 100-member senate as part of a bicameral legislature, the creation of regional councils, and the fixing of the presidential term to 7 years, renewable once. One-third of senators are to be appointed by the President, and the remaining two-thirds are to be chosen by indirect elections. As of July 2008, the government has not established the Senate or regional councils.