been threatened, arrested, and tortured,” Quintal said.
When Haman Mana, a 57-year-old journalist and publisher of the privately-owned Le Jour French-language daily newspaper in Cameroon, heard that Cameroon’s media tycoon, Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, had been arrested as part of investigations into the murder of his colleague Martinez Zogo, Mana was guardedly optimistic. He commented, “Such an arrest should not call for a celebration, much less when he is still a suspect. As someone who has been threatened directly and physically, I can’t say the threat is over yet because we didn’t have to deal with [just] an organized force. We were dealing with a terrorist force. I am stupefied that we’ve come to this. Very appalled to say the least.” Amougou was brought before the Yaounde Military Court on February 14, but was sent back to his cell at the gendarmerie headquarters in Yaounde for an additional investigation. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that one of the suspects, Justin Danwe, confessed his involvement in the murder and said it was done with Belinga’s knowledge. RSF also declared it a “state crime.” Sadibou Marong, director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau, noted that the ongoing investigations have made “extraordinary progress” in the past few days and that other important persons, including several other ministers close to Belinga, could have been informed in advance of the plan to kill Zogo and could even have been involved. Zogo was known for using his Embouteillage (traffic jam) daily programme on the Amplitude FM radio station to tackle cases of corruption—often going as far as questioning important personalities by name. He had compiled evidence of Belinga’s fraudulent acquisition of 46 billion central African francs (approximately US$74 million) from emergency funds between 2013-2021 with the complicity of some state officials. Just days before his abduction, Zogo’s name—along with the names of close to a dozen other Cameroonian investigative journalists and whistle blowers—had gone viral on social media. It was believed that they were targeted for uncovering a massive embezzlement scandal. Mana had also been blacklisted. He vividly remembers his last moments with Zogo prior to his death; Zogo had come to his office and told him, “I will be murdered…You have to be on your guard because you yourself are on their list.” Unfortunately, Zogo’s death is not an isolated incident. Less than two weeks after Zogo’s mutilated corpse was found, another radio presenter and Orthodox priest, Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe, was found dead near his home in Yaounde, apparently shot by unknown assailants. Both Ola Bebe and Martinez Zogo were outspoken voices against corruption. The death of Samuel Wazizi, who was detained by the Cameroonian authorities in 2019 for criticising the government’s handling of a separatist revolt in the country’s English-speaking north-west and south-west regions, was also confirmed 10 months later but his body has never been handed over to his family. Angela Quintal, the Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), commented, “I read the autopsy notes shared by Zogo’s family and saw the photographs. I was horrified and then incensed by the brutality and cruelty of what was done to Martinez Zogo. I could not help but think of Samuel Wazizi, whose death in custody was very personal for me.” Cameroon is currently ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index and is considered “one of the continent’s most dangerous countries for journalists.” The central African nation is also the second-worst jailer of reporters in sub-Saharan Africa and fifth on the continent with at least five journalists behind bars as of December 1, 2021, according to the CPJ. Quintal noted, “Countless other journalists have been threatened, arrested, and tortured.”
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