US: CPJ wants prosecution of three Cameroonian journalists halted

New York, US (PANA) - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Cameroonian authorities to immediately halt the prosecution of three journalists after a judge on 9 October changed the charges against them in mid-trial.

The three are Félix Cyriaque Ebolé Bola, sub-editor of the daily Mutations; Baba Wamé, a journalist and teacher at the University of Yaoundé 2; and Rodrigue Tongué, a journalist with Canal 2 Television.

In a statement on Friday, the press freedom watchdog indicated that during the 9 October military court hearing, they were charged with criminal defamation for their "complicity in attempting to insult" President Paul Biya in place of the 2014 charges.

CPJ revealed that the authorities on 28 October, 2014 originally charged the journalists with "non-denunciation" for failing to disclose information and sources to the state that could harm national security under Cameroon's Criminal Code.

"The shift in charges against Bola, Wamé, and Tongué shows that Cameroonian authorities had no real case against these journalists in the first place," argued CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator, Angela Quintal, from New York.

"Their prosecution has been a travesty of justice since the start and the journalists should be finally free to continue their work without fear of reprisal."

According to CPJ, the case was adjourned until 18 October for closing arguments.

If convicted, it said, the journalists faced one to five years in prison, and a fine of 20,000 to 20 million Central African francs (approximately US$36 to $35,988.)

The statement noted that the journalists' lawyers had observed that the new charge against them had no standing since the journalists had not published anything that insulted the president.

They also maintained that a complaint from the accuser was required to proceed with insult charges but the defence team had not received such a complaint from President Biya.

Meanwhile, CPJ said the 2014 charges related to an investigation the journalists were conducting into allegations that members of the Cameroonian security forces were colluding with a leader of an armed group from Central African Republic.

It was, however, revealed that the journalists never published an article on the subject.
-0- PANA MLJ/MA 14Oct2017

14 Outubro 2017 12:38:28

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