CAMEROON


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



JANUARY 12, 2004
Posted: January 29, 2004

Jean Baptiste Ketchateng, La Nouvelle Expression
Denis Nkwebo, Radio Siantou
HARASSED

Ketchateng, a reporter for the private triweekly La Nouvelle Expression, and Nkwebo, a correspondent for the private, Yaoundé-based Radio Siantou, were arrested at a small gathering of members from Le Front des Forces Alternatives (FFA), an association of political parties and civil society groups, in the southwestern port city of Douala. According to Ketchateng, about twelve FFA members were collecting signatures on a petition to the government calling for free and fair elections. (Elections are scheduled to take place in Cameroon in late 2004, although precise dates have not been announced.)

Soon after the journalists arrived to interview FFA leaders, police officers surrounded the group, and began arresting FFA members. The journalists showed their press cards and told the police they were journalists, but they were arrested and driven in separate cars to a nearby police station. Ketchateng told CPJ that he was beaten by the police officers but sustained no serious injuries.

After several hours of questioning, the journalists were moved to the police Bureau of Investigations. There they were questioned again. The questioning revolved around why the journalists had been present at the FFA gathering. The journalists said they were made to understand that they were not to publish anything about the petition or their arrests. Ketchateng and Nkwebo were held for nine hours before they were released, without charge.

DECEMBER 24, 2004

Christopher Andu Ezieh, The Heron
IMPRISONED

Local authorities arrested Ezieh, publisher of the weekly Heron newspaper, which is based in the town of Buea in Cameroon's Southwest Province. Ezieh was detained for three nights before being released on bail, according to local sources. He was later charged with failing to submit a copy of each issue of his newspaper to local authorities before distribution, and with driving a car without the proper insurance and licenses.

Local sources told CPJ that they believed the charges were brought against Ezieh in retaliation for his journalistic work. When he was in custody, authorities told Ezieh they were holding him because of recent articles criticizing the local judiciary and the December 8 appointment of Inoni Ephraim as prime minister of Cameroon, the journalist told CPJ. Authorities also threatened to bring further action against Ezieh if he continued to publish critical articles.

JULY 11, 2004
Updated: July 19, 2004

Farouk Chothia, BBC
Ange Ngu Thomas, BBC
IMPRISONED

Cameroonian soldiers arrested BBC producer Chothia and reporter Thomas and took them to Limbe, where they were put under house arrest. The two journalists arrived in Bakassi peninsula on July 10, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) and CPJ sources. They had received signed authorization from Cameroon's Communications Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo to travel to the area but were arrested anyway.

Cameroonian gendarmes who questioned the journalists for two hours on July 13 accused them of spying, according a CPJ source. CPJ sources say that the journalists were threatened during their interrogation and were deprived of food for brief periods as leverage. During their detention, the journalists signed statements saying they were not spies.

Soldiers also confiscated their equipment, identity papers, and authorization to report in Bakassi, AFP reported.

A BBC statement confirmed that the two journalists had gone to Bakassi to cover the handover of the oil-rich area to Cameroon. A 2002 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague awarded the disputed territory to Cameroon, and Nigerian troops are due to pull out by September 15. However, Nigerian communities on the peninsula are unhappy with the ruling.

Chothia and Thomas were released without charge on Friday, July 16, according to the BBC and international news reports. Their equipment and identity papers were returned after their release, according to a CPJ source.


JULY 28, 2004
Posted: May 10, 2005

Eric Wirkwa Tayu, Nso Voice
IMPRISONED

Tayu, publisher of the English-language newspaper Nso Voice based in the western town of Kumbo, was imprisoned after his conviction on charges of defaming the town's mayor, Donatus Njong Fonyuy in articles alleging corruption, according to local sources.

Tayu was sentenced to five months in prison and fined 500,000 CFA francs (about US$893). When Tayu was unable to pay the fine, his prison sentence was extended five months.

Tayu was released from prison on March 28, 2005, after he raised enough funds to pay the fine. However, he told CPJ that he continued to face threats and harassment from authorities in Kumbo.