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Thursday,July 02,2020 10:30 AM

Cameroon journalist who criticised govt dies in custody

By AFP

Added 4th June 2020 04:43 PM

The media watchdog ranks Cameroon 134th out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than the previous year

Cameroon journalist who criticised govt dies in custody

A Cameroonian journalist holds a sign reading “No to the persecution of journalists” during a free speech rally in Yaounde, Cameroon.

The media watchdog ranks Cameroon 134th out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than the previous year

CAMEROON   JOURNALISM     DEATH

Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi, who was arrested last August for criticising the government's handling of a separatist revolt, has died in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

Wazizi worked for a local TV channel, CMTV, in one of two regions where anglophone separatists have launched an armed campaign for independence from French-speaking Cameroon.

"Wazizi died in detention," the watchdog said in a statement issued late Wednesday that called for a "thorough and independent investigation" into what happened.

He was arrested on August 2, 2019 and "accused of speaking critically on the air about the authorities and their handling of the crisis," RSF said.

Five days later, he was taken from a police station in Buea to the local headquarters of the army's 21st Motorised Infantry Battalion, but from then on neither his family nor his lawyers were allowed any contact with him or given any information, it said.

RSF said Wazizi's death had been confirmed by two sources, including the head of the Cameroonian National Journalists' Union, while a senior military officer said the journalist had been "ill" but gave no further details. 

On Tuesday, privately-owned channel Equinoxe TV, quoting what it described as sources close to military command, said Wazizi had died during transfer to the nation's capital Yaounde at an unknown date after his arrest.

RSF said Wazizi's death in detention while being held incommunicado "is the worst crime against a journalist in the past 10 years in Cameroon."

The media watchdog ranks Cameroon 134th out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than the previous year.

Buea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which with the neighbouring Northwest Region has been gripped by violence since the separatists' revolt began in October 2017.

The conflict, rooted in long-standing perceptions of discrimination among Cameroon's English-speaking minority, has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced nearly 700,000 people to flee their homes.

Rights groups say atrocities and abuses have been committed by both the separatists and the security forces.

There was no immediate response from the authorities to an AFP request for comment.

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