By Tata Mbunwi
As journalist Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip outlasts eight months in detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has urged Cameroonian authorities to immediately free the Climat Social newspaper director.
A recent communique from the New York-based CPJ also called for the release of “all other members of the press imprisoned for their work” in Cameroon.
“Cameroonian authorities should release journalist Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip and cease the outrageous use of military courts to prosecute the press,” says Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
Emmanuel Mbombog was arrested at his house in Yaounde on August 17, 2020, by six armed men dressed in plain clothes.
He was kept at the Secretariat of State for Defence, SED, in Yaounde until September 7, when military court judge, Misse Njone Jaques Baudouin,a charged him with propagating fake news.
A provisionary order signed by Baudouin stated that he should be detained until March 7, 2021, a date which he has outlived. After the ruling, Mbombog was then transferred to the Kondengui Central Prison where he is still being held.
At Kondengui, reports say he was threatened and severely beaten, resulting in wounds all over his body.
Since Mbombog’s arrest and detention, journalism associations, including the National Union of Independent Journalists of Cameroon, SYNAJIC, have been pressing for his release to no avail.
Commenting on the situation, SYNAJIC’s President, Alex Koko, said the detention of Emmanuel Mbombog is “part of a strategy to prevent the media from denouncing certain enemies of the Republic…”
A media report on the Mbombog case stated that, “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.”
Research carried out by CPJ revealed that at least eight other journalists were under detention in Cameroon as of December 1, 2020, among them popular journalist Paul Chouta.
Reporters Without Borders, RSF, ranked Cameroon 131st out of 180 countries in press freedom in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, and 134 in the 2020 Index.
“The fact that Cameroon remains one of the worst jailers of journalists in Africa is a grave indicator of the broader condition for the media,” Angela Quintal said.
Journalist Paul Chouta’s case is one of the most popular cases of journalists under prolonged and unlawful detention in Cameroon.
The critic of the Biya Government was arrested in May 2019 under accusations of defamation, fake news and insulting language, following a video he posted on his Facebook page, TGV de l’info.
Chouta has spent 23 months i detention and his case has been adjourned at least 20 times after several hearings.