Panafrican News Agency

Three UN special rapporteurs to investigate disappearance of Cameroonian journalist, Samuel Wazizi

Paris, France (PANA) - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it has asked three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs to investigate the exact circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Cameroonian journalist, Samuel Wazizi, who died in August 2019, just a few days after being held by the army.

In the absence of an impartial and independent investigation, the press freedom organisation said on Monday it referred the case to the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions, torture and freedom of expression so that they could put pressure on the Cameroonian authorities to shed full light on the case and ensure that those responsible for Wazizi's death are accurately identified and prosecuted in accordance with international standards.

"Two months after the disclosure of this case, the independent and transparent investigation promised by President Paul Biya has still not seen the light of day," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The government's official version is riddled with inconsistencies and we fear that the promised investigation could lead to the truth being revealed," Reporters Without Borders said. "We call on the United Nations to do everything in its power to ensure that the circumstances leading to Samuel Wazizi's death are established," RSF said on Saturday in a statement obtained by PANA in Paris.

Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, commonly known as Samuel Wazizi, a presenter on the regional channel, Chillen Média Télévision, was arrested on 2 August 2019 for having made critical comments on his channel regarding the management of the English-speaking crisis in Cameroon.

Since that date, neither his family members nor even his lawyers have been able to make contact with the journalist who is being held incommunicado by the military.

Privately-owned Equinoxe TV revealed Samuel Wazizi's death in custody on 2 June 2020, citing "sources close to the high military hierarchy," before the news was confirmed by the president of the National Union of Cameroonian Journalists and then directly to RSF by a military source very close to the case.

A press release readout on 5 June on Cameroon Public Radio and Television (CRTV), and signed by the defence ministry's head of communications, acknowledged Wazizi's death 10 months after the event, explaining that the death was the result of "severe sepsis" and not of "any act of torture". It specified that the journalist died in a military hospital in Yaoundé on 17 August 2019, four days after his transfer to the country's political capital.

RSF stated that it had contacted the Minister of Communication and government spokesperson, René Emmanuel Sadi, and the Defence Ministry's head of communication, but they did not respond to its calls and messages.