The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African Regional Organization of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has today expressed its shock and dismay at the death in custody last Wednesday of leading journalist Bibi Ngota, editor of the bi-monthly newspaper Cameroun Express.
Bibi has been held at the Kondengui prison in Yaoundé since March 10th when he was arrested with three colleagues, Serge Sabouang, editor of La Nation, Robert Mintya, editor of Le Devoir and Hervé Nko'o, reporter at the weekly Bebel newspaper, following a complaint by the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Laurent Esso, that they allegedly "falsified his signature on a document in order to blackmail him". The journalists were carrying an investigation into an alleged corruption involving the state-owned oil company SNH.
"We are tremendously shocked by the death of Bibi and the conditions in which these journalists have been detained," said Omar Faruk Osman, President of FAJ.
Bibi's family repeatedly warned about his poor health as he had asthma and high blood pressure. According to his colleagues, the death certificate stated that he did not receive medical treatment when he asked for it. "We share in the sorrow of Bibi's family and the Cameroonian journalists who mourn his loss and we pass our deepest sympathy and condolences," Faruk added.
FAJ remains extremely concerned about the reports of alleged torture to force Cameroonian journalists to reveal their source and fully supports the demands made by its affiliate in the Cameroon, the National Syndicate of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC). "We back the call for an independent commission of enquiry to examine and determine the circumstances of the arrest and detention of these journalists which resulted in this dreadful tragedy," said Faruk.
The death of Bibi has come at a time when journalists in Cameroon are suffering increased harassment and abuse at the hands of the authorities. The International Federation of Journalists has protested many abuses against journalists perpetrated by security forces and the use of criminal legislation to independent media.
In a letter to Cameroon President Paul Biya last February, IFJ President pleaded for his intervention to stop arbitrary arrests, criminal prosecutions and torture of journalists. He raised in particular the cases of four journalists, Thierry Ngogang from STV2, Alex Gustave Azebaze, independent journalist and leader of Syndicat National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC), Anani Rabier Bindz from Canal2 International and Manassé Aboya Endong from Africa Top Secret, currently on trial, and demanded that charges against them be dropped.
During the Congress of the Federation of African Journalists in Harare in March 2010, African journalists adopted strong resolution supporting Cameroonian journalists. The Federation is due to carry out a solidarity mission to Cameroon in the next few weeks.
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