24 October 1997


Assault and arrest of journalist during presidential elections; copies of magazine "Mutations" seized

Incident details

Marie Noelle Nguichi



(RSF/IFEX) - Marie Noelle Nguichi, a journalist with the bi-
weekly "Le Messager", was arrested on 12 October 1997 - the day
of the presidential elections - by a police officer in a barrack
in Yaounde, where a voting booth had been set up. The officer
accused Nguichi of being "a spy for `Le Messager'" and threatened
to imprison her. Nguichi was released after being detained for
six hours. The same day, Alain Bengono, a journalist with
"Expression", was assaulted in front of another voting booth in
Yaounde after questioning the booth's supervisor regarding the
irregular practices that he had observed.

On 11 and 12 October, Barbara Etoa, Philippe Mbawe and Hubert
Fotso Sobgwi, journalists with the national radio and television
station CRTV, were forced to read a phony communique over the
air. The fabricated document stated that the opposition parties
had called on their supporters to go out and vote - yet, the
opposition had called for a boycott of the elections. Celestin
Bedzigui, one of the opposition leaders, made a public statement
of denial, calling the information in the communique "false and
an attempt at disinformation." His statement was broadcast only
45 minutes before the polls closed.

On 11 October, Jean Aime Mballa, special correspondent for the
weekly magazine "Mutations", was briefly detained by police in
Foumban, where he was covering an election meeting.

In other news, on 20 October, security forces confiscated from
kiosks and roadstands copies of "Mutations". The action followed
the publication, in that day's edition of the magazine, of an
article entitled "Un ancien putschiste seme la panique a Etoudi"
("A former putschiste sows panic in Etoudi"). The article alleged
that Captain Guerandi Mbara, one of the instigators of a failed
coup in 1984, wanted to seize power again.

The confiscation of "Mutations" is only the latest in a long
series, says RSF. Even though the 24 June ban order against
"Mutations", introduced by the minister in charge of territorial
administration, was lifted on 4 July, seizures of the magazine
have continued on a regular basis.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • denouncing the assault and arrest of journalists, the
    falsification of news as well as the arbitrary seizure of
    publications, calling them grave attacks on the integrity and
    freedom of the press
    reminding them that Cameroon has ratified the International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 of which
    recognises the freedom to inform and to be informed
  • calling on them to respect and enforce the engagements taken by
    Cameroon in the international community
  • urging them to use their influence to ensure the free
    circulation of and respect for information in Cameroon

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Paul Biya
    President of the Republic of Cameroon
    Palais de l'Unite
    Yaounde, Cameroon
    Fax: +237 23 30 22/+237 22 16 99

    Peter Mafany Musonge
    Prime Minister
    Immeuble Etoile
    1000 Yaounde, Cameroon
    Fax: +237 23 57 65

    M. Laurent Esso
    Minister of Justice
    Garde des Sceaux
    Ministry of Justice
    1000 Yaounde, Cameroon

    M. Augustin Kontchou Kouomegni
    Minister of State for Communication
    Ministry of Communication
    BP 1588
    Yaounde, Cameroon

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Reporters Without Borders
    47, rue Vivienne
    75002 Paris, France
    rsf (@) rsf.org

    Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
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