Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alert: Two journalists sentenced to five years in prison following closed-door hearing

(JED/IFEX) - On 3 June 2009, a military tribunal in Yaoundé sentenced Jacques Blaise Mvié and Charles René Nwe, general manager and editor-in-chief, respectively, of "La Nouvelle" newspaper, to five years in prison and a 500,000 FCFA (approx. US$1,066) fine at the end of a closed-door hearing. No appeal was permitted; the journalists were only informed of the hearing after the fact. A warrant was issued for their arrest.

"La Nouvelle" is a privately-owned weekly based in Yaoundé, the capital.

The charges against Mvié and Nwe stem from a series of articles published in "La Nouvelle" implicating Cameroon's minister of defence, Remy Ze Meka, in a failed October 2007 coup attempt and alleging that he was responsible for diverting public money to soldiers posted in Bakasi peninsula.

Mvié was originally summoned by a military security unit (SEMIL), Cameroonian intelligence and the national gendarmerie on 3 March 2008 and questioned at length on his sources for the stories. Meanwhile, secret summary proceedings had already been initiated at Yaoundé's military tribunal without the journalists' knowledge. The news of their conviction was relayed to them by phone by an unidentified individual.

Speaking by phone to a JED correspondent, Mvié said the conviction appeared to be a "settling of scores" by the defence minister on behalf of ministry colleagues who are serving time for misappropriation of public funds.

In a letter to the president, copied to JED, Mvié asked him to intervene on the journalists' behalf over what he called "arbitrary" measures they had been subjected to by the defence minister. Mvié also wondered how it was that a press infraction (if in fact one could call it an infraction, according to the 1990 law on social communication) came to be judged by a secret military tribunal in a summary procedure if there was not the intention to fabricate a case against the two journalists.

"La Nouvelle" is known for its exposés on politicians implicated in corruption

Journaliste en danger
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374, av. Col. Mondjiba
Complexe Utexafrica,
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Local 18 Kinshasa/Ngaliema
République Démocratique du Congo
direction (@) jed-afcentre.org
Phone: +243 81 99 29 323
Fax: +44 20 7900 3413

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