Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Newspaper editor hospitalised after being attacked in his cell

From our international desk Amsterdam Zuidoost - (RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the condition of the former editor of the weekly "Le Devoir", Robert Mintya, who was taken from Yaoundé's Kondengui prison to a hospital on 25 August 2010, more than two weeks after being seriously injured in an attack by a fellow inmate in his cell.

The press freedom organisation has rushed emergency funds to Mintya, who was incarcerated in Kondengui prison on 10 March along with two other journalists, one of whom, Ngota Ngota Germain, also known as Bibi Ngota, subsequently died there.

"The authorities have clearly not learned the lesson from Bibi Ngota's tragic death in April in circumstances that have yet to be explained," Reporters Without Borders said. "Now it is Mintya's turn to be in a critical condition. We reiterate our call for the release of him and the third journalist, Serge Sabouang. They have been held for too long in pre-trial detention."

The Reporters Without Borders Cameroon correspondent was due to visit Mintya on 31 August in Yaoundé central hospital's department of neurology and physical medicine, to which he was admitted on 25 August. The funds being provided by Reporters Without Borders are to pay for a specialist to examine him and determine what treatment he needs.

His medical file, which Agence France-Presse has seen, states that he needs "hospitalisation in an appropriate hospital centre." He has not, however, been given access to free medical care.

Describing the attack that he received in prison on the night of 8 August to Agence France-Presse, Mintya said: "I was clubbed over the head and lost consciousness (. . .) I was admitted to the prison infirmary and spent 10 days there before being taken to hospital."

Mintya and the other two journalists were arrested as a result of a complaint by Laurent Esso, the secretary-general of the president's office, accusing them of forging his signature to a document and then using it in an attempt to discredit him. Mintya denies that he had any role in the forgery.

Reporters Without Borders has been told that individuals close to Esso promised Mintya that he would be freed if he signed a statement saying he was led astray. Mintya wrote many letters to Esso – some of which were published in "L'Anecdote", a newspaper that supports Esso – begging forgiveness for the fact that the document was forged.

After failing to obtain his release, Mintya then wrote many letters accusing other leading Cameroonian personalities of being responsible. The attack on him could have been carried out at the behest of one the people he incriminated.

Sabouang, the editor of the fortnightly "La Nation", will also receive an emergency grant from Reporters Without Borders.

Sabouang and Mintya are facing the possibility of 20 years in prison if convicted on the forgery charges. "Bebela" journalist Simon Hervé Nko'o, the alleged author of the forgery, cannot be found.

Source: Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

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