Cameroonian authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against three journalists accused of failing to disclose information and sources, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders said on the eve of their trial before a military court.
Journalists Baba Wame, Rodrigue Ndeutchoua Tongue, and Félix Cyriaque Ebolé Bola are due to appear before a military court in Yaounde tomorrow. They are the first journalists charged for the crime of ‘non-denunciation’ in a military court. The journalists had been investigating a story about allegations of collusion between elements of the security forces and a leader of an armed group from Central African Republic that had been accused of previously attacked a town in the east of Cameroon. They were charged with failing to share information that could harm national security. “Charging journalists for abiding by the ethical standards of their profession is a violation of the right to freedom of expression, and a worrying development in Cameroon,” said Stephen Cockburn Amnesty International West and Central Africa deputy regional director. If convicted, the three journalists could be sentenced to jail terms between one and five years and/or a fine between 50,000 to 5 million CFA (approximately US$832 - US$8,325). Having received documents about the alleged affair, the journalists had written to the police to get more information. Receiving no reply they abandoned the investigation and did not publish the story. They were originally charged in October 2014 under Article 107 of Cameroon’s Criminal Code, and placed under judicial control, registering with the police each week and prevented from publishing in the media. The journalists deny they uncovered any information that could undermine security, and say they wish to protect their sources. “Cameroon’s Criminal Code should be reformed in conformity with international standards to protect freedom of expression and the confidentiality of sources. The public have a right to information and national security must not be used as a pretext to stop journalists from doing their job,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, Reporters Without Borders Africa Desk manager. Cameroon has ratified both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide protections for journalists and their sources.