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Gov’t steps up surveillance on Journalists as political situation deteriorates

Yaoundé (National Times)-In recent times, Cameroonian Journalists have come under severe intimidation as the socio-political situation in the country deteriorates.

The latest of such victims is the celebrated and award winning news presenter of Equinox Radio and Television, Mimi Mefo. She was on October 31 handed a summons by the Colonel, second in Command of the Littoral Gendarmerie Legion, Boum Bissoue Raymond.

According to the summons, Mimi Mefo is accused of engaging in cyber criminality and the spreading of false information. The case which was to be heard this Friday has been deferred to Monday, October 5, according to sources.

Since she launched her personal website few months ago, the Editor-in-Chief of the English news desk at Equinox has come under several threats from mainly anonymous sources.

She has extensively covered the on-going Anglophone conflict and has not shunned the habit of calling names of perpetrators of most of the heinous crimes.

In most cases, her reports have varied with the official version like the assassination of the American Baptist Missionary which she argued was done by the Cameroon military in Bambui, Bamenda.

Many other Journalists have suffered a similar situation or even worst. Recently a Francophone cyber journalist, Michel Biem Tong was also picked up after being called for questioning with remarks made concerning the Anglophone Crisis.

Since the advent of the Anglophone conflict, Cameroonian Journalists, espcially those of English expression have come under severe pressure with some arrested and jailed.

The case of Awah Thomas Junior, Publisher of the Aghem Messenger who has been jailed since January 2017 at the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison is still fresh in mind.

He was critically sick recently and it only took national and international pressure for the Government to permit him to go to the hospital. In 2017, many other Journalists were jailed with some gaining their liberty including Atia Tilarious, Tim Finnian and Hans Achomba.

Earlier this year, Akumbom Elvis McCarthy of the Abakwa FM, Bamenda was picked up for what the State said was the broadcasting of secessionist tendencies.

He has since been remanded in custody despite pressure from rights group including the Community to Protect Journalists.

According to another Journalist, Elie Smith, the summons of Mimi Mefo is just one among several others which would be coming up soon geared at those critical of the regime’s handling of the Anglophone conflict as well as other major political issues.

In the opinion of Lobe Ekamby, an expert in Peace and Development, with the tense post-electoral atmosphere and the perennial Anglophone conflict, the Government is increasingly being worried about its image at the international scene, which is why it is taking a preemptive move.

However, many have argued that the regime is always hard on journalists who are not closely linked to the regime as well as Anglophone Journalists in particular.

In a chat with some Anglophone Journalists working for the State media, they complain of working under serious pressure with some of them being called to questioning whenever they write or say anything critical of the regime.

“Anglophone Journalists working for the State media go through hell, just that the public does not know,” a Journalist working for the State said.

Many have argued that because the Yaoundé based television channel Vision 4 is flirting with regime barons, its Journalists have become above the law.

Recently, one of its celebrated presenters, Nadine Patricia Mengue, announced the alleged death of Gabonese leader, Ali Bongo Ondimba.

Even though the incidence almost created a diplomatic war between Cameroon and Gabon, the authorities in Cameroon have not bothered to level any sanction on the Journalist or his employer.

At the incipient stage of the Anglophone conflict, Journalists of the channel also used words describing Anglophones as “rats” which must be extinguished. Despite calls from Journalists at home for the channel to be sanctioned, there was silence from the regime. In the meantime, it is not known who would be next in the line of this summons.

 

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