The editor of the newspaper Climat Social and president of the National League for the Defence of the Rights of Disadvantaged Persons, Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip has been forgotten by the judicial system ever since his arrest more than eight months ago on a charge of spreading fake news.
Six armed men arrested him at his home on 17 August 2020, when he was investigating two stories involving various senior Cameroonian officials. One was about an alleged coup plot, the other about the theft of luxury cars from Togo. He had received several threats and had been the target of an intimidation attempt shortly before his arrest.
Matip, whose feet were amputated after a road accident in 1992, says he was physically mistreated and humiliated at the time of his arrest and in the hours that followed. After initial interrogation at military intelligence headquarters, he was held without an arrest warrant at the defence ministry for three weeks before being brought before a military court in Yaoundé and then taken to Kondengui prison, where Covid-19 is out of control. He is still being held in Kondengui, although his provisional detention order expired on 7 March.
“This journalist has been treated in a disgraceful manner that has included a heavy-handed arrest, being hauled before a military court and being subjected to an arbitrary provisional detention that has already expired,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The entirely illegal prolongation of his detention is clearly motivated by a desire to prevent him from continuing his investigative reporting. We call for his immediate release.”
The head of the Cameroonian Independent Journalists Union (SYNAJIC), Alex Koko à Dang, told RSF that Matip’s arbitrary detention was the latest of many attempts to “gag the press” in Cameroon.
Matip, who has submitted many release requests that have gone unanswered by the authorities, is not the only journalist currently being subjected to arbitrary prolonged imprisonment in Cameroon. Cameroun Web reporter Paul Chouta has been held for more than two years in Yaoundé’s main prison on a fake news charge. After 26 hearings, an outcome to his trial is expected on 6 May. The former director-general of the state-owned radio and TV broadcaster CRTV, Amadou Vamoulké, 71, has been held for nearly five years in the same prison as Matip without being convicted on any charge. Instead he is being subjected to an absurdly prolonged trial that has so far seen 65 hearings, which is unprecedented for a Cameroonian journalist.
Cameroon has fallen another place in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 135th out of 180 countries.