Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns newspaper editor Raphaël Nkamtcheun’s detention for the past week for receiving allegedly confidential government documents from former finance minister Polycarpe Abah Abah when he visited Abah in Yaoundé prison on 17 February. Abah has been jailed since 2008 on an embezzlement charge.
“This is an arbitrary act designed to silence the press,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Nkamtcheun has done nothing to justify being arrested. Receiving a document from a prisoner you are visiting is not a crime. It is understandable that the authorities might want to know how Abah came to be in possession of these documents but accusing a journalist is unacceptable.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We urge the authorities to respect the methods of investigative journalism. It is normal for investigative reporters to be shown official documents. It is an essential part of their work. Nkamtcheun must be freed at once.”
Nkamtcheun went to the prison at the request of Abah, who had already provided him with information for publication in his newspaper, La Boussole, on several occasions in the past. After a three-hour meeting that intrigued the prison’s guards, Nkamtcheun was searched as he left and was found to have confidential documents that he had presumably received from Abah.
The editor was immediately arrested and, after giving a statement, was taken to gendarmerie headquarters in Kondengui, where he spent the first night.
The documents allegedly show that the president was behind Abah’s arrest during an anti-corruption drive known as Operation Sparrowhawk.
Nkamtcheun’s detention has left his wife and children in financial difficulties. Reporters Without Borders has decided to provide them with financial support.