Pretrial detention: The uncertainty of Paul Chouta’s fate

When Paul Chouta’s case will be called at the appeal court in Yaounde for judgment is not known.

According Barrister Tamfu Richard one of the defending lawyers of the web journalist, “the situation has been further complicated following the merging of the trial of my client Paul Chouta and a certain Mispa Ngo Hegam, founder of Paradise school in Douala”.

On the 10th of September 2019, the Yaounde court of first instance decided to merge the case with the proprietress of the school despite Chouta’s refusal saying they are accomplices in the process of defamation.

Paul Chouta is accused of defamation and the propagation of fake news following a complaint against him by a French female writer called Calixthe Beyala.This led to his arrest on the 28th of May 2019.

According to barrister Tamfu Richard speaking to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the charges against Chouta are retaliatory against him following his reporting on his facebook page ‘Le TGV de L’Info’ that criticises bad governance and undemocratic practices of the government. Paul Chouta before his arrest focused his writings on corruption, the Anglophone crisis, right violations and published confidential documents within the government circles and the presidency.

Paul Chouta was denied bail by the judicial police on the 31st of May and later taken to the Kondengui prison according to Bar. Emmanuel Simh.

Before the charge on hate speech was later dropped by the court of first instance in Yaounde, Paul Chouta following pressure from a judicial police man who interrogated him pleaded guilty to all the two charges in the absence of his lawyers.

A close source told CPJ that Paul Chouta was traumatized and pressurized to accept the charges on the pretext that he was to be set free, an acceptance that Chouta’s lawyers in collaboration with their clients denied days after.

If Paul Chouta is found guilty of defamation, he can face up to six months imprisonment and pay a fine of 2 million francs cfa and for fake news, he can be imprisoned for up to five years and pay a fine of 1 million francs cfa.

According to CPJ, Cameroon’s minister of communication has not given any answer concerning the situation despite several attempts. To the committee, Cameroon’s minister delegate in charge of justice Jean De Dieu Momo expressed doubt if the law in Cameroon recognizes web journalism as a profession.

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