Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon, several calls have been made for the release of journalists jailed for their work.
This left many surprised and disgruntled when no journalist was released when President Biya carried out the remission and commutation of sentences that saw hundreds of inmates walk free.
Highlighting the need to recognise the work done by journalists, four United States Senators and congresswoman, Karen Bass says it is necessary to release journalists locked up.
Citing three journalists; Amadou Vamoulke, Tsi Conrad and Thomas Awah, in recognition of the importance of their work.
“Detained in recent years for politically-motivated charges, the treatment of these journalists and others in Cameroon reflects a troubling pattern of repression regarding free speech and freedom of the press” said the lawmakers.
They then went ahead to quote the US Department of State’s 2019 human rights report which said individuals “who criticised the [Cameroon] government publicly or privately frequently faced reprisals.”
With Amadou Vamoulke’s lawyer insisting his client’s detention is politically motivated, the US law makers say “since his detention, Vamoulke has yet to be formally charged despite 20 hearings at the Special Criminal Court. Conrad is similarly awaiting a hearing before a military appeal tribunal for his 2018 sentencing to 20 years in prison … Has reportedly been tortured while in custody in Yaounde according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.”
In addition to being handed more “questionable charges”, like Tsi Conrad, they say “Awah Jr has suffered from poor physical and mental health and since being incarcerated has been treated for tuberculosis and pneumonia.”
In line with the CPJ’s May 3rd statement referring to the holding of the press men behind bars even with the coronavirus pandemic as “sheer cruelty”, the concerned US lawmakers say in the last Biya has worked with them to release others unjustly detained. “We urge you to demonstrate similar leadership and mercy during this unprecedented global crisis by immediately releasing Vamoulke, Conrad and Awah Jr.”
The recent call comes to add to those of the CPJ and other media and rights groups seeking the freedom of all journalists wrongly held behind bars in Cameroon.
Mimi Mefo Info