"Touristique Express celebrates the lifting of its suspension," says the legend of a video, seen more than 10,000 times since August 22, 2023, posted on a Cameroonian Facebook page. The video shows buses belonging to the intercity transport company Touristique Express lined up on the public highway with their horns blaring. According to the 28-second video, the footage shows the company's vehicles "celebrating" after the suspension imposed by the Ministry of Public Transport was lifted.
Indeed, Touristique Express is billed as the leading transport company in Cameroon. Per company statistics, it transported around 2 million passengers in 2022. It controls the largest share of the passenger transport market in the Far North and the South of Cameroon. On August 16, it was suspended for a "period of 15 days" for, among other things, serious breaches of road traffic regulations leading to the death of 9 people in the accident of August 9, 2023.
The said accident, widely reported by local media including Stop Bla Bla Cam and Le Jour, involved a company bus that collided with a stationary truck on the cliff at Mbé, in the Adamaoua region. The accident officially left 9 people dead and 42 injured.
The same day the suspension was announced, the company indicated it was ceasing road passenger transport service with resumption expected “as soon as the suspension is lifted.”
In the comments below the video, many Internet users expressed their indignation at the decision to lift the suspension. Others claimed that the video pre-dates the suspension.
An old video
The video was posted on the Facebook page Bruno Bidjang Officiel. In its “intro” section, the page presents itself as the official page of Bruno Bidjang, journalist, deputy director of Vision 4, and deputy spokesperson for the CEO of the media group L'Anecdote. It was created on April 24, 2018, and is administered from Colombia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, as the page's transparency information indicates. We contacted Bruno Bidjang on August 28, six days after the video was published.
He claims not to be the "author" of this publication, stating that his page had been "hacked". "They published an old video. They are reposting some of my old posts,” the journalist said. When contacted via Whatsapp on August 22, Esther Ngo Bougha, head of the Ministry of Transport's communications unit, denied the lifting of the suspension of the activities of Touristique Express. "This information is not true," she simply replied. François Bomba, marketing manager at Touristique Express, also denied the suspension-lifting claim when contacted by Stop Bla Bla Cam on August 28.
"The information is false. It's an old video that was published when the first suspension was lifted last May. The (second, ed. note) suspension is still ongoing. We're working hard to comply with the minister's instructions before resuming our activities," he confided a few days ago. A reverse image search on Google Images, Yandex, and TinEye using screenshots from the video yielded no results. However, a keyword search on Facebook's tool Who posted what? turned up the video in a post dated May 15, 2023.
"Lifting of Touristique Express S.A. suspension. Demonstrating with buses everywhere would be a shock for the families of the victims who are still in shock,” the author of that post wrote in French.
It was posted four days after the announcement of the one-month suspension imposed on the company, following the fatal accident involving a Touristique Express bus on national highway no. 1 on May 9, 2023. According to official figures, the accident claimed the lives of 15 people. Several online media reported on the accident. Four days after taking this decision, the Minister of Transport, Jean Ernest Masséna Ngalle Bibehe, reversed the measure and authorized the company to resume its activities.
Other videos released after the announcement of the lifting of the suspension of Touristique Express in May 2023 clearly show a similar scene. The verified video predates the drama of August 9, 2023, which earned the company a 15-day suspension, following an initial one-month suspension last May.
On September 1, 2023, the Minister of Transport issued a press release authorizing the company to exceptionally resume operations. The same day, on its Facebook page, Touristique Express announced "the immediate resumption" of its activities following the ministerial decision.
Overall, the video posted on August 22, 2023, on the Bruno Bidjang Officiel page does not show Touristique Express showing its joy after the lifting of its ongoing suspension. It is indeed a genuine video but it is taken out of context: it was first posted on Facebook on May 15, four days after the company was authorized to resume operations.