By Folegwe II Menky, March 3, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – Independent press freedom advocacy organization, Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has requested Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication, to explain the circumstances relating to the arrest and detention of at least eight journalists in the country.
In a letter dated March 1, and signed by CPJ’s Africa Programme Coordinator, Angela Quintal, CPJ insists Tchiroma should give reasons for the detention of the journalists arrested on separate occasions. The outfit which defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal also wants the Communication Minister who doubles as Government Spokesman to indicate where the journalists are being held as well as their current legal status.
Going by CPJ, Atia Tilarious Azohnwi of The Sun newspaper, Amos Fofung of The Guardian Post newspaper, Thomas Awah Junior of Aghem Messenger magazine, Mofor Ndong of Voice of the Voiceless newspaper, Hans Achumba of Jakiri Community Radio, Tim Finnian of Life Time newspaper, Jean Claude Agbortem of Camer Veritas online magazine, and Medjo Lewis of La Détente Libre newspaper are imprisoned for their work as journalists.
Tchiroma had told CPJ by telephone on February 15, that government is “completely transparent” and that “people can speak their mind.”
“You [Tchiroma] further said no journalist was in prison in Cameroon and that journalists should not ‘pretend to be arrested for their work.’ You [Tchiroma] requested that we forward you a list of detained journalists. We [CPJ] did this privately the same day and repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to follow up with you [Tchiroma] directly,” CPJ stated in a recent communication to Tchiroma.
The press freedom advocacy organization challenged Tchiroma, who is noted for inconsistencies in his declarations, to reconcile his contention that no journalists are jailed in the country with the recent findings of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms.
“On February 20, the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF), an official body, confirmed the detention of at least five journalists. Since then we [CPJ] have heard reports of at least three other journalists jailed in Cameroon,” CPJ noted.
By press time, we gathered on good authority Tchiroma had received the CPJ correspondence but was yet to react to it.
Since the Anglophone crisis erupted last year, government has intensified its crackdown on the media, particularly in the two English speaking regions.
The government has taken steps to stifle communication as it shut down the internet in the South West and North West Regions; a move the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye described as “an appalling violation of [the] right to freedom of expression.”
Journalists and media organs have been threatened with arrest for reporting, media houses have been closed while government continues to hunt journalists.
Cameroon is rated ‘Not Free’ is Freedom House’s freedom index.