Newspaper editors Serge Sabouang of the bimonthly La Nation and Robert Mintya of the weekly Le Devoir were freed provisionally yesterday after more than eight months in Yaoundé’s main prison, Kondengui. Sabouang confirmed their release in a phone call last night with the Reporters Without Borders correspondent in Cameroon.
“We hail the release of these two journalists with immense relief,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Reporters Without Borders had been urging the Cameroonian authorities to free them ever since their arrest in March. They can now be reunited with their families and they will not be detainees when they stand trial.”
Sabouang and Mintya were arrested on charges of forging the signature of the president’s chief of staff, Laurent Esso, and using it to discredit him. A third newspaper editor who was arrested with them, Bibi Ngota of the Cameroun Express, died in Kondengui prison on 22 April.
Reporters Without Borders has learned from various local sources that Esso died last night. This news has not yet been officially confirmed.
In a press release at the end of September, Reporters Without Borders said: “After more than six months in provisional detention, (Sabouang and Mintya) must either be brought before a judge as a matter of urgency or they must be released without delay. More information
Reporters Without Borders provided them with financial assistance in August. More information
Meanwhile, yesterday in Paris, fellow Cameroonian journalist Rosine Flore Azanmene of Radio Tiemeni Siantou received the “Jean Hélène” Francophone Prize for Press Freedom in the radio category for a report broadcast on 26 August about the failure to provide adequate food to the detainees in Yaoundé’s main prison.
As a result of the two newspaper editors’ prolonged detention and Ngota’s death in detention, Cameroon fell 20 places in the 2010 press freedom index that Reporters Without Borders published last month.
Photo : AFP