Knife attack on well-known Cameroonian investigative reporter

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s knife attack on a leading investigative journalist in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, and calls for a thorough and independent investigation to identify those responsible.

Chief investigative reporter at CameroonWeb, the country’s most popular news website, Paul Chouta was beaten and stabbed by three unidentified individuals as he left his Yaoundé home, sustaining injuries to the head, hands and feet. “He survived thanks to the intervention of neighbours, who rushed him to hospital for emergency attention,” the website said in a communiqué sent to RSF.

Well-known for his reporting and for interviews carried live on Facebook, on which he has more than 54,000 followers, Chouta is often the target of threats and hate speech. “He had to change his place of residence for safety reasons during last October’s presidential elections and is still very exposed because his stories often circulate widely online,” his editor, Emmanuel Vitus, told RSF.

“We condemn this premeditated attack, in which this journalist could have lost his life if it hadn’t been for his neighbours’ courageous intervention,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation that does not rule out the possibility that the attack was linked to the victim’s work. The authorities have a duty to protect reporters and to create conditions that allow them to work at a time of political turmoil, when the country has more need than ever of professional journalists.”

RSF is still pressing for the release of Théodore Tchopa and David Eyengue, two journalists with the leading Cameroonian daily Le Jour, who have been held since the evening of 28 January. They were arrested while covering a meeting of opposition leaders who dispute President Paul Biya’s reelection for a seventh term last October. Now that more than 48 hours have elapsed since their arrest, they have been registered as imprisoned journalists in RSF’s “barometer” of press freedom violations worldwide.

They join Amadou Vamoulké, the former head of state-owned Cameroon Radio & Television (CRTV), who has been held for more than two and a half years. The 17th hearing in his Kafkaesque trial is due to be held on 1 March.

Cameroon is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.