Journalist facing serious charges for reporting amid rising repression in Cameroon

  • Cameroonian journalist was reporting on human rights abuses when detained
  • Charges include engendering state security and cyber criminality
  • Fears of imminent terrorism charges and a trial in military court
  • Present case is the latest in ongoing anti-reporting campaign in Anglophone region

International civil society is alarmed at the rising incidents of Cameroonian journalists being detained for reporting on human rights abuses in the country’s Anglophone regions.

In the most recent case, Mimi Mefo Takambou, head of English news for the private TV Channel, Equinoxe was arrested in Cameroon’s largest city, Douala on November 7 after she responded to a police summons. The summons was issued in late October 2018 as part of an investigation into false news and cybercrime offences.

Takambou faces charges of engendering state security, spreading false news and cyber criminality. The engendering state security charge raises serious concerns that she may will be tried by a military tribunal under Cameroon’s notorious terrorism legislation. Takambou is currently being held at Douala’s notorious New Bell prison.

The journalist, who also has a blog covering socio-economic and political issues, was summoned by police after publishing information about the killing of American missionary Charles Trumann Wesco near the city of Bamenda in the North West Region on 30 October 2018. Since the start of the Anglophone crisis in 2016, journalists particularly those of Anglophone origin have been subjected to politically motivated prosecutions and jailed following the militarization of the Anglophone regions.

“The detention of Mimi Mefo and several other journalists is typical of the actions of a rogue regime,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“In defiance of international norms, Cameroonian authorities are using indiscriminate violence and intimidation to force journalists and ordinary citizens to self-censor amid a growing political crisis and rising human rights violations in the two Anglophone regions,” said Tiwana.

The state’s targeting of journalists has intensified after disputed presidential elections on 7 October 2018, in which incumbent President Paul Biya claimed victory. This latest case serves to intimidate other journalists against reporting on the Anglophone crisis and post-election developments.

In the last month alone, at least six journalists have been arbitrarily arrested and are currently detained for coverage of the crisis and the political situation in Cameroon. On October 23, editor of the privately-owned website Hurinews, Michael Biem Tong, was summoned by the Secretariat of the State for Defence in Yaoundé after publishing information critical of the government’s response to the Anglophone crisis. Less than two weeks later, security forces assaulted, arrested and detained journalist Joseph Olinga of le Messager newspaper as part of a crackdown on peaceful protests calling for a vote re-count from the October 7 elections. Gustave Flaubert Kengne, publisher of Orientation Hebdo, a publication that focuses on human rights issues, also remains detained without charge.

CIVICUS calls on the African Union to urge the Cameroonian government to respect the rights of journalists in line with provisions in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and immediately release Takambou and all others currently held for reporting on human rights violations.

“It is time for the African union to wake up from its slumber and call on the government of Cameroon to respect the rights of its citizens,” Tiwana said.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates the space for civil society in Cameroon as repressed. Cameroon is also on the Watch List of the Monitor.

ENDS

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Ine Van Severen

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