Press Freedom : Committee to Protect Journalists,CPJ, Wants Cameroon to Account for 8 Detained Journalists
The International independent press freedom
advocacy organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, is
demanding explanations from the Cameroon government in relation to the
detention of at least eight Cameroonian journalists.
In a statement issued on march 1
2017, the CPJ wants the Minister of Communication to explain reasons for
the detention of Atia Azohnwi, Amos Fofung, Thomas Awah Junior, Mfor
Ndong, Hans Achumba, Tim Finnian, Jean Claude Agbortem, and Medjo Lewis,
imprisoned for their work as journalists.
The CPJ also raised concerns as to
why the Cameroon’s Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma earlier claimed there was no
Cameroonian journalist in detention. The CPJ buttresses its observation about the detention of journalists, with
the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedom’s 2017 report which
confirmed the jailing of some media practitioners.
Below is full CPJ request for
clarification from the Cameroon government...
CPJ requests information On Jailed
Minister of Communication
Hotel de Ville
Via fax: +237 222 23 30 22;
the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom
advocacy organization, are concerned about compounding reports of
measures to restrict the media in Cameroon, and request clarification
regarding the reported imprisonment of at least eight journalists in
our conversation on February 15, you told us that Cameroon's government
was "completely transparent" and that "people can speak
their mind." You further said no journalist was in prison in
Cameroon and that journalists should not "pretend to be arrested
for their work." You requested that we forward you a list of
detained journalists. We did this privately the same day and repeatedly
but unsuccessfully attempted to follow up with you directly.
L-R: POLICE BOSS and MINISTER TCHIROMA
February 20, the National Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms
(NCHRF), an official body, confirmed the detention of at least five
journalists. Since then we have heard reports of at least three other
journalists jailed in Cameroon.
We therefore request your assistance in
reconciling your contention that no journalists are jailed in Cameroon
with the conclusions of NCHRF, and request clarification on the
location of the following journalists, any criminal charges against
them, what alleged activities gave rise to those charges, and the
status of any criminal proceedings against them:
·Atia Azohnwi, a
journalist with The Sun newspaper
and the Buea head of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking
Journalists, whom security forces arrested with Amos Fofung on February
9, 2017, in Molyko, according to the NCHRF. According to a statement published
on The Sun's Facebook
page, security forces took Azohnwi, The
Sun's political desk editor, to the Molyko precinct and
then to the Judicial Police in Buea, before transferring him to the
Judicial Police station in Yaoundé.
·Amos Fofung, Buea bureau
chief of The Guardian Post,
whom security forces arrested with Atia Azohnwi on February 9, 2017, in
Molyko, according to the NCHRF. According to The Sun's Facebook page,
police first held him in Molyko before transferring him to the Judicial
Police station in Buea, and then in Yaoundé.
·Thomas Awah Junior, a
journalist for and publisher of the monthly Aghem Messenger magazine,
whom police arrested in Bamenda on January 2, was transferred to
Yaoundé that evening before being sent to Kondengui Central prison two
weeks later, a Yaoundé based Cameroonian journalist told CPJ, speaking
on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Awah Junior remains
in Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé according to a Yaoundé Military
Tribunal document published by
Cameroonian blogger Albert Nchinda.
·Mfor Ndong, publisher of the
Bamenda-basednewspaper Voice of the Voiceless,whom security forces
arrested in Buea on February 9, 2017, according to the NCHRF.
ATIA : DETAINED FOR HIS WORK
Hans Achumba, a journalist
for Jakiri Community Radio in the Bui Division of the Northwest Region
of Cameroon, whom police arrested on allegations of spreading
opposition lawmaker Joseph Wirba's calls to resist the government in
Yaoundé, according to the NCHRF. Achumba remains in Kondengui Central
Prison in Yaoundé, according to the Yaoundé Military Tribunal document
and a Cameroonian journalist who spoke to CPJ on the condition of
anonymity, for fear of retribution.
·Tim Finnian, publisher of Life Time newspaper,
whom security forces arrested on January 27, 2017, three days after he
published an article alleging two English-speaking youths had died in
state custody, according to an English-language Cameroonian newspaper The
Star. He too has been transferred to Kondengui
Central Prison in Yaoundé, according to the same military court
document and additional Cameroonian journalists who spoke to CPJ on the
condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution.
·Jean Claude Agbortem,
co-founder of the online magazineCamer
Veritas, whom police arrested on January 28, 2017,
according to Nchinda.
·Medjo Lewis, editor of La Détente Libre, whom
police arrested on February 22, 2017, and whom the Bafoussam High Court
sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 10 million Central
African francs (US $16,131) for defamation, according to two
Cameroonian journalists who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity,
for fear of retribution.
recent months, the government has taken increasingly drastic steps to
suppress the rights to transmit and receive information in Cameroon,
particularly in predominantly Anglophone regions. Media outlets have
been suspended, and journalists have been banned from practicing their
craft, according to CPJ research. The
internet has been inaccessible to residents of the northwestern and
southwestern regions of Cameroon since January 17, 2017--"an
appalling violation of [the] right to freedom of expression," as
U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye noted on
February 10, 2017.
in light of these measures to restrict the media, we are concerned that
Atia Azohnwi, Amos Fofung, Thomas Awah Junior, Mfor Ndong, Hans
Achumba, Tim Finnian, Jean Claude Agbortem, and Medjo Lewis are
imprisoned for their work as journalists, and respectfully ask that you
clarify the reasons for their detention, where they are held, and their
current legal status.
Africa Program Coordinator
Sètondji Adjovi, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
Dr. Divine Chemuta Banda, Chairman, National Commission of Human Rights
and Freedoms in Cameroon
David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Simon Lyonga, National President, Cameroon Association of English
Speaking Journalist (CAMASEJ)
Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission Chairman
Michel Tommo Monthé, Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the United
Georges Nakseu, Directeur, Démocratie et Droits de l'Homme,
Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie
Denis Nkwebo, President, Cameroon Union of Journalists
Faith Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, The
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights