Cameroonian newspaper editor finally acquitted, released after 16 months
Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip, a Cameroonian newspaper editor who was detained in a completely arbitrary manner for 16 months and had to spend a further week in prison after his acquittal, has finally been freed. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes his release but fears further proceedings against this journalist.
The editor of the newspaper Climat Social, Matip was arrested by six soldiers at his home on 17 August 2020, when he was investigating two stories, one about an alleged coup plot, the other about the theft of luxury cars from Togo.
After three weeks, he was taken before a military court in Yaoundé, which treated him in an incredible fashion, ordering his transfer to prison and leaving him to rot there. On 13 December, this court finally acquitted him for “lack of evidence” and ordered his release.
Nonetheless, the release order was not immediately carried out and, instead, he was moved to a cell at Yaoundé police headquarters on 17 December. Assisted by a lawyer sent by RSF, he was finally released at midday on 20 December but RSF has learned that he could the subject for new proceedings before a civil court.
“We are relieved that this journalist is finally free again after being deprived of nearly a year and a half of his life,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We hope the Cameroonian authorities will now choose to compensate him for the immense harm he has suffered rather than initiate new baseless proceedings against him, especially after his acquittal by a military court.”
Judicial proceedings designed to silence journalists, including proceedings before special courts and military courts, are common in Cameroon and Matip’s case is far from being an isolated one.
Amadou Vamoulké, the former director-general of Cameroon’s state radio and TV broadcaster CRTV, has been detained arbitrarily for the past five and a half years, during which he has appeared 88 times before the Special Criminal Court (TCS) without being convicted because the prosecution has no evidence against him.
After RSF drew its attention to the case, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in June 2020 that Vamoulké’s detention “exceeds the maximum limit set by the law” and that “the violations of the right to due process are of such gravity that they confer an arbitrary character on [his] detention.”
Cameroon is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index, one place lower than in 2020.