Cameroon’s authorities must shed light on radio station director’s murder, protect journalists
Five days after Cameroonian radio station director Martinez Zogo’s abduction, his body was found near the capital yesterday (22 January), bearing the signs of probable torture before he was killed. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities to do everything possible to identify those responsible and bring them to justice, and to protect journalists in Cameroon.
This is a grave blow to democracy and press freedom. First he was brutally abducted and then his lifeless body was found with the marks of torture. Everything indicates that he was deliberately killed. This murder of a journalist who was just doing his job must not go unpunished. We urge the Cameroonian authorities to conduct an independent investigation that does not falter, and to end the climate of violence against media personnel. Journalists must be able to work safely and without risk of reprisals, and to be placed under protection when necessary.
When found in Ebogo, a village about 20 km outside the capital, Yaoundé, Martinez Zogo’s body was naked and decomposing, his family and colleagues said. He was found on 22 January 2023, a few days after his abduction. According to RSF’s sources, his body was badly mutilated and his clothes were found scattered within a radius of around 100 metres.
The body was taken to the morgue of Yaoundé’s central hospital. So far, no autopsy findings have been published but a government statement said the body had been “visibly subjected to significant physical cruelty.” Neither the police chief nor state prosecutor has so far issued any statement.
But the National Union of Cameroonian Journalists issued a statement denouncing “an appalling murder with consequences that will further restrict freedom and security in Cameroon.” The director of privately-owned Amplitude FM and the host of a radio show called “Embouteillages,” Zogo often talked about cases of alleged corruption involving well-known figures. He recently began addressing a case of embezzlement allegedly involving Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, a wealthy businessman and media owner who is said to be close to finance minister Louis-Paul Motaze.
Zogo is the second journalist to die in alarming circumstances in recent years. In June 2020, the authorities said regional TV presenter Samuel Wazizi had died in detention after being accused of “terrorism.”
Need for police protection
Journalists’ safety is a real problem in Cameroon. Paul Chouta, a reporter for Cameroun Web, a news site critical of the government, was forced into a car by unidentified men, given a severe beating and left for dead at the side of a road on 9 March 2022, two days after he posted a photo on Facebook showing the finance minister and Belinga. Since then, Chouta does not go out alone. The complaint he filed with a Yaoundé court has yet to produce any results.
Chouta reported that he was followed by a black car with no licence plate while on his way to the morgue yesterday to identify Zogo’s body and, in a Facebook post, he said he was afraid of being the “next victim.” In the current context, Chouta should be receiving police protection.