Police investigating the murder of a Cameroonian journalist have arrested a prominent businessman and ally of the government.
Amougou Belinga, the owner of a media company, and two others were detained in connection with the murder of journalist and regime critic Martinez Zogo.
Zogo, Director of Amplitude FM was abducted on Jan 17, and his mutilated body found four days later on the outskirts of Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé.
Zogo used his radio show to challenge alleged corrupt practices carried out by government and business figures.
Paul Chouta, another journalist who was abducted and manhandled last year, raised the alarm on Zogo’s disappearance.
When his abduction was announced, some social media influencers and citizen journalists quickly suggested his murder could be linked to the last radio show he conducted before his abduction, where he “called out” Belinga by name.
The arrests on Feb 6 follow the earlier detention of around 20 members of Cameroon’s General Directorate of External Investigations, part of the government’s security services.
The arrests of the head of the GDEI led investigators to Belinga, according to media watchdog reports.
The current investigation led by a mixed unit of gendarmes and police officers detained Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, the General Manager of Anecdote Media Group, journalist Bruno Bidjang and Belinga’s father-in-law, retired Colonel in the presidential guard, Etoundi Nsoe.
This was confirmed by communication head of Anecdote, Ines Arielle Belinga, who released a statement for the media. “He (Belinga) is at the Secretary of State for Defence within the framework of investigations”, she said.
The arrests follow the publication of a report by media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which said the murder of Martinez was a state crime.
A group of Human Rights activists, led by Kah Walla of the Cameroon People’s Party, have signed a joint communiqué, vowing to maintain pressure on the authorities and get justice for Martinez.
Kah Walla has used social media to frequently republish the picture of another journalist who disappeared and was later announced dead by Cameroonian authorities.
Samuel Wazizi was arrested in Buea, Southwest region in August 2019.
Following pressure from journalism associations and the international community, the government announced he died in detention from sepsis, an infection of the blood, which can be caused by injuries.
Wazizi’s body has never been produced by the government, and his case met a dead end. His family has not been able to collect or identify his corpse.
Every Friday Walla and her team dress in black to protest injustices committed on citizens, protests they call #FridayInBlack.
“No Cameroonian should die for investigating the governance of our country. For asking questions. For protesting the theft of our money,” she tweeted.
The murder of Zogo has also been condemned by several country representatives and diplomatic corps, all calling on the State of Cameroon to arrest those responsible.
Dangerous for journalists
Reporters Without Borders says Cameroon is among the worst places to practise journalism. The organisation puts the country at the bottom of its press freedom index, at number 118 out of 180.
Cameroonian journalist, Elizabeth Tabi, who works for the country’s English daily newspaper, The Guardian Post says of working under these conditions: “Journalism in Cameroon is in peril. Those who attempt to write articles that hold state authorities or business persons to account, are in danger of imprisonment or murder. We are not safe. Our safety matters.”
The Littoral President of the Cameroon Journalism Trade Union(CJTU), Aristide Ekambi said: “No one will recommend the profession to his child, especially with what’s going on.”
He sees the current situation as an opportunity to keep the safety of journalists in the public eye and even bring attention to past disappearances and deaths, like Samuel Wazizi’s.
“Until this day, what is happening right now has permitted us to go back to Wazizi’s case. Wazizi was summoned, arrested by an unknown team that took him from Buea to Yaoundé and after some weeks, signs of him disappeared. We only learnt later from the government spokesperson that he had died. We protested and cried for Justice but nothing happened”, Ekambe said.
But Journalists continue to disappear.
One week after the body of Martinez Zogo was found, another journalist and Reverend Father, Jean Jacque Ola Bébé was found dead.
It is unclear how he died, but many colleagues say he had returned repeatedly to the subject of Zogo’s murder during television appearances.
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