A presenter on Equinoxe TV and editor of her own news website, mimemefoinfos.com, Mimi Mefo has been held ever since she responded to a summons from police in the business capital, Doula, shortly after midday on 7 November. After interrogation by police on suspicion of spreading false news and violating the cyber-crime law, she was taken before military tribunal prosecutor Jackson Ahanda Yemego, who ordered her placed in preventive detention. Since then, she has been in Douala’s New-Bell prison. Mefo’s lawyer, Alice Nkom, told RSF that she had not yet received any documents from the military court about the charges brought against Mefo, but the possibility of a state security violation charge was mentioned when she was being interrogated.
In her coverage of US missionary Charles Wesco’s death from a gunshot injury on 3 October in Northwest Region, one of the two main English-speaking provinces, she quoted another media outlet’s claim that government soldiers shot him. But, on her own website, she also posted the government’s version, blaming English-speaking armed separatists.
“Paul Biya’s seventh term as Cameroon’s president has begun with a journalist’s clearly arbitrary arrest,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “This is serious, because it manifestly violates the undertaking he gave to respect the constitution when sworn in on the day before the journalist’s arrest, and because it threatens all reporters in Cameroon. Coverage of the conflict between the central government and the English-speaking regions is an essential duty for journalists and does not in any way constitute a form of support for those involved in the conflict, or a criminal act deserving trial before military court. Mimi Mefo must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
According to the information obtained by RSF, Mefo could be taken before a military investigating judge on 12 November.
In a statement yesterday, the National Union of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC) announced a 10-day boycott of all governmental activities.
The journalist Ahmed Abba was held incommunicado for nearly three months, tortured by intelligence officials and threatened with a death sentence by a military court after being arrested in July 2015 in Maroua, in the Far North Region, where he had been covering the activities of the armed jihadi group Boko Haram. He ended up being sentenced in April 2017 to ten years in prison and a fine of around 85,000 euros on charges of “failing to report acts of terrorism” and “laundering the proceeds of an act of terrorism.” He was finally released in December 2017 after a military appeal court in Yaoundé reduced his jail term to 24 months and his fine to around 83,000 euros.
Cameroon is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.