Imprisonment of Cameroonian Journalists: SAJ Calls for International Intervention
The Society of African Journalists, SAJ has condemned illegal arrest, detention and subsequent jailing of Cameroonian journalist cum activists Mancho Bibixy Tsee on what appeared to be trumped up charges.
According to SAJ acting President, Comrade Michael Adeboboye in a press release made available to Journalists, Mancho Bibixy Tsee was arrested on January 19, 2017 while at a friend’s house.
There were reports that on the fateful day of his arrest, armed soldiers scaled the house’s fence, shooting sporadically in the air and forcibly gained access into the house where he was arrested.
He was reportedly beaten, hooded, not having a chance to dress up, take his shoes or ID card and taken away to a detention facility.
Mancho was subsequently slammed with “acts of terrorism”, “hostility against the homeland”, “secession”, “revolution”, “propagation of false defended”, “contempt of public bodies and public servants”, “resistance”, “depredation by band”, “failure to hold his national ID card” and “insurrection” under the Law on the Suppression of Acts of Terrorism No. 28 of 2014 and Cameroonian Criminal Code.
Bibixy’s trial commenced in earnest in February 1 2017 without concrete evidence to prosecute him. However, the government of Paul Biya was believed to have manufactured evidence against and after a year: March 25 , 2018, the military court sentenced him to15 years in prison and fined 208 million CFA francs (408 564 Euro).
According to SAJ, “these strong arm tactics of the government, mark is gross violations of Bibixy’s basic human rights. We condemned the treatment and continued incarceration of Bibixy in no uncertain terms and call on the government of Cameroon to cease the violations and accord Bibixy due regard for his humanity.
“We recognise the need for governments to maintain law and order. We however must stress the important role of the Fourth Estate in Africa’s development trajectory and that muzzling press freedom is unfriendly to progress on the continent. It merely perpetuates a Dark Continent narrative which is retrogressive.
“Sometimes journalists must use their platforms to give voice to the voiceless. That work is consistent with the Media’s role of informing and enlightening the public. It is unfortunate when governments do not understand this cardinal role.”
The statement further said, “the position of the SAJ is not to suggest that journalists are above the law, it is to emphasize the need for due process to prevail in cases of alleged breaches of the law involving media practitioners. Heavy handed tactics in the treatment of journalists gives rise to justified suspicion of the culpability of governments in the very matters they raise against journalists. If indeed journalists are guilty of any crimes, allow the competent courts to hear the cases in the open.
“Anything else must be condemned as nefarious attempts to suppress the important public discourse over issues of importance to society.
“All considered, we call upon the international community to push not just for the release of Bibixy, but an intervention into the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Cameroon. We call upon ECOWAS, the AU and United Nations and indeed the government of Cameroon to release Bibixy and work for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”