Journalists in Cameroon pay the price for professionalism
Dec 9, Yaoundé: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the continuing judicial persecution of two newspaper journalists and a former journalist who have been accused since October 2014 of failing to report a matter affecting state security. They have now found out that the proceedings before a military court are confirmed.
Félix Cyriaque Ebolé Bola of Mutations, Rodrigue Tongue of Le Messager and Baba Wame, a former journalist who is now a teacher, learned this when they were summoned to the office of a military judge, Capt. Bernard Tsuite, in Yaoundé on 4 December.
After waiting several hours, they were notified that, despite a previous ruling minimizing the case against them, there was “sufficient evidence” for the charge of failing to report a security matter that they would have to appear before a military court in Yaoundé.
The reporters were absurdly accused in October 2014 of failing to share with the authorities what they knew about the possible presence of a Central African Republic insurgent at the Cameroonian border.
In fact, they did not write articles based on their information because the police refused to answer the questions put by one of the journalists and they therefore decided the information lacked the necessary verification.
“This judicial farce has gone on for too long,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF's Africa desk. “In a country where the media are often accused of sloppy reporting, it's the last straw that these journalists are being prosecuted for acting professionally, checking their facts and deciding not to publish an incomplete story.
“As things stand, do these journalists really pose a threat to Cameroon's national security? We call on the authorities to immediately drop the charges against them and to desist from any further harassment.”
According to one of the journalists, the judge originally handling their case, Aline Mbia, was relieved of the case after she lifted their judicial surveillance in January and was transferred to a military court in Ebolowa, in the heart of southern Cameroon's equatorial forest.
Journalists in Cameroon are often subjected to arrests designed to intimidate. Ahmed Abba, Radio France Internationale's Hausa-language correspondent in northern Cameroon, is being held incommunicado in Yaoundé since August in a manner qualified as “extra-judicial” by RFI as he has not been charged.
François Fogno Fotso, the editor of the weekly Génération Libre, has been facing charges of disobeying the police and “rebellion” ever since he photographed the heavy-handed arrests of pro-democracy activists in September. His trial has so far been postponed three times.
Cameroon is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
The Oslo Times