The former director-general of state-owned Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV), Vamoulké has been held for more than three years on charges of economic crimes that prosecutors have not yet been able to prove to the special criminal court that is trying him. He is due to appear before this court for the 22nd time on 16 September.
Is the Cameroonian judicial system going to allow this 69-year-old journalist to die slowly in Yaoundé’s Kondengui prison despite the unanimous findings of the two medical reports seen by RSF?
The first report, from Yaoundé’s central hospital, recommends “evacuation to a specialized centre because of the “limited technical capacity” at the Yaoundé hospital and “the severity of the neurological condition” afflicting Vamoulké.
This analysis and recommendation is shared by the American Hospital of Paris, to which a copy of Vamoulké’s medical file was sent for its opinion. In the certificate seen by RSF, professor of neurology Hervé Taillia says Vamoulké presents an “unfavourable clinical condition in both limbs that is acute and progressive.” Noting that the tests and treatment the patient needs would be hard to provide in Cameroon, the professor recommends “hospitalization in France.”
“Will it take a tragedy to end the ordeal endured by this journalist, whose trial is still not over more than three years after his arrest?” asked Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The medical reports are unequivocal. Amadou Vamoulké needs medevacking. We call on the Cameroonian authorities not to allow one of their country’s most eminent journalists to die in prison.”
Appointed in 2005 by President Paul Biya to run CRTV, Cameroon’s state TV and radio broadcaster, Vamoulké was arrested in July 2016 and was charged with misusing state funds, not for personal ends but with the sole aim of benefitting CRTV. The prosecution has nonetheless failed to prove this during the 21 hearings so far held in this trial.
Vamoulké was the only African journalist nominated for this year’s RSF Press Freedom Prize. A staunch campaigner for the decriminalization of press offences in Cameroon and for opening up broadcasting to the private sector for the sake of diversity, Vamoulké was the first president of the Union of Cameroonian Journalists.
RSF addressed an open letter to President Biya in March, urging him to obtain Vamoulké’s release.
Nine French parliamentarians wrote to President Emmanuel Macron and to the French foreign ministry about the case in February, describing it as a “political detention.” In its reply, the foreign ministry said “the prosecution has not produced evidence of the appropriateness of its case,” and that it would pay close attention to the conclusions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to which RSF referred the case in January. In its referral to the UN Working Group, RSF pointed out that the court trying Vamoulké had completely ignored its nine-month legal deadline for concluding the trial.
Cameroon is ranked 131st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.