By Tata Mbunwe
Journalists in Cameroon are decrying what is considered an attack on the journalism profession as the Publication Director of Climat Social newspaper, Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip, spends six months in pretrial detention.
Journalism associations, including the National Union of Independent Journalists of Cameroon, SYNAJIC, and media colleagues are still pressing for his release as government is yet to issue a statement about him since his arrest last August.
According to SYNAJIC’s President, Alex Koko, the detention of Emmanuel Mbombog is “part of a strategy to prevent the media from denouncing certain enemies of the Republic…”
Media sources say he is being detained under precarious conditions at the Yaounde Central Prison, and no one is being allowed to visit him.
“Our disabled colleague, who lost both legs in a traffic accident in 1992, is deprived of food and suffers daily illegal brutality. His family is not even allowed to visit him,” said a journalist in a report published on an online platform.
In a release February 18, the President of SYNAJIC, Alex Koko, called for his “immediate and unconditional release,” with media reports describing Mbombog as a prisoner of conscience.
His pretrial detention is supposed to expire on March 6, according to a release earlier signed by the investigating judge of the Yaounde military court. The release stated that he is charged with spreading false news.
“This shows the violation of the constitution through an arbitrary certificate and prolonged police custody”, underline SYNAJIC’s President who denounces “the muzzling and repression of a press boss.”
The journalist was arrested from his home on August 17, 2020, by Cameroon’s security and defence officers and was reportedly tortured from 10am, when he was arrested, until 10pm, before being transferred to a dark cell at the Secretariat of State for Defense in charge of the National Gendarmerie, SED, in Yaounde.
He spent three weeks at SED before being remanded in custody for 06 months at the Yaoundé Central Prison by magistrate colonel Misse Njone Jacques Baudouin, military examining magistrate.
Difficult terrain for private media journalists
Practicing objective journalism in the private media sector in Cameroon is still very challenging despite the liberalization of the media sector under the reign of President Paul Biya.
Although the media has thrived better during the 38-year-rule of Biya, compared to that of his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo, journalism is still under attack in Cameroon.
Government soldiers in the Southwest Region disappeared journalist Samuel Wazizi on August 2, 2019, and government only announced him dead on June 5, 2020, following pressure from journalism associations and the civil society.
Government had claimed that the journalist died from an illness and said he had been in close contact with his family before his death, but Wazizi’s older brother, Harry Abuwe, and sister-in-law, Metete Joan Njang said they had not spoken with him since his arrest.
Other Cameroonian journalists such as Paul Chouta, are still suffering from unjust detention with more one year of prolonged trial. He was arrested in May 2019, under charges of defamation and false information.
Like other journalism associations within and without Cameroon, the National Union of Independent Journalists of Cameroon, SYNAJIC, “calls on the authorities to end unjustified restrictions on journalists and private media,” adding that “Journalism is not a crime.”