Stop Punishment of Journalists Probing Public Corruption
A Year After death of journalist in prison, CPJ calls for justice & reforms
Cameroon - from our international desk Amsterdam - Source: New York, April 22, 2011—The government of Cameroon should initiate reforms to guarantee journalists’ ability to report on issues of public interest without fear of reprisal, said the Committee to Protect Journalists in a letter sent today to President Paul Biya one year after the death of a local journalist in pre-trial detention for reporting on corruption allegations.
CPJ holds the government responsible for the death of Germain Cyrille Ngota Ngota, a probing editor with the monthlyCameroon Express, who perished in prison on April 22, 2010, due to a lack of medical attention despite repeated requests for help. The organization is seeking an investigation into the case. Ngota was initially detained in February 2010 after he and three other reporters questioned a government official regarding allegations of embezzlement of public funds at Cameroon’s state oil authority, SNH. The government’s own investigation revealed that the official ordered state intelligence agents to arrest the journalists and unmask their sources. Another journalist has accused state intelligence of torturing him while in detention.
CPJ urged Biya in the letter to end the practice of abusive detentions and criminal prosecutions that allow for settling scores with critical or probing journalists. The organization also called for a reform of the “criminal code so that defamation, libel, and press offenses are adjudicated by civil courts. In the interest of public accountability, transparency, and democracy, we call on you to take all necessary steps to hold to account officials and security services who abuse their authority in reprisals against their critics in the press.”
Unfortunately, Ngota’s case is part of a broader climate of repression for reporting that sheds light on the management of public resources. Earlier this month, a provincial governor in Cameroon had a journalist detained after he made routine inquiries about the arrests of two employees at the state-run palm oil company. The authorities later said the reporter had been detained for his own protection. Authorities also banned a newspaper amid legal harassment of journalists investigating public corruption. With a score of 2.2 out of 10 Cameroon’s public sector is ranked as highly corrupt on Transparency International’s index.
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