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July 24, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Update on press freedom in Cameroon as president visits France


Journalists are still arrested or threatened and one is currently serving a three-year prison sentence, Reporters Without Borders said in an update on press freedom in Cameroon on the day of a meeting in Paris between Cameroonian President Paul Biya and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Respect for press freedom has improved markedly in recent years in Cameroon and blind repression of journalists seems to be a thing of the past, but journalists still often suffer at the hand of overzealous police officers or corrupt judges or as a result of score-settling between politicians,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge President Biya to do what is necessary to provide durable protection to journalists and we reiterate our call for the release of Lewis Medjo, the editor of the weekly La Détente Libre,” the press freedom organisation added. Medjo has been detained in the southwestern city of Douala since 26 September 2008 for publishing a report about an alleged ploy by President Biya to get the supreme court president to retire early. A court sentenced him on 7 January to three years in prison and a fine of 2 million CFA francs (about 3,000 euros). The editor of the weekly Le Jeune Observateur, Jules Koum Koum, and a member of his staff, Jacques Nkul, were ordered to present themselves to a Douala police station on 20 July. Koum, who is also the Reporters Without Borders Cameroon correspondent, regarded the summons as an abuse of authority and reported it to the Cameroonian attorney general. A dozen of journalists have been the target of lawsuits and prosecutions in connection with their work in the past two and a half years. The Cameroonian media are quite dynamic but the economic environment is difficult and journalists are exposed to threats. Censorship was abolished some 15 years ago but the government has retained articles in the press code that provide for severe penalties for press offences. A newspaper reporter or editor can be sentenced to several years in prison for an article that is deemed to be libellous.