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Journalists face unlawful assembly charges in Cameroon

8 Nov

New York, November 8, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Cameroonian officials to drop criminal charges against two journalists who were arrested last month in the southwestern town of Buea for covering a secessionist gathering. The two are free on bail but face fines and up to six months in jail.

Martin Yembe Fon, who is editor of local newspaper The Frontier Telegraph, and Bashiru Edua, a Nigerian national and editor of African Drum magazine publishing in Jos, Nigeria, still face charges of unlawful assembly. Today, the court heard their defense and the case was adjourned until March 14, their lawyer, Ajong Stanislaus Anuaboudem, told CPJ.

Fon and Edua were arrested on October 1 as they tried to cover a gathering at a local church, according to news reports and local journalists. Police officers stopped Fon and Edua and seized their press cards before ordering them to go inside, Fon told CPJ. “While in the church, we took pictures of the over 100 activists and church officials praying,” he said. “Midway into the prayers, a large contingent of policemen invaded the premises with police vans, ordering all to walk into the vans or be brutalized.”

Fon and Edua were driven along with the others to the central police station in Buea, where they were interrogated, fingerprinted, and photographed, leading independent daily Le Messager reported. After 10 hours of detention, they were taken to court and charged with unlawful assembly under Section 231(a) of the Cameroonian Penal Code, defense lawyer Anuaboudem told CPJ. The charge carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs (US$200). The journalists pleaded not guilty and were released on bail at midnight on October 2, after six hours at the courthouse, Fon said.

Police have not returned Fon’s digital camera or recorder, he said.

“Martin Yembe Fon and Bashiru Edua were apparently unconvenient witnesses to a crackdown on a gathering of secessionists, an issue of national public interest the Cameroonian government would rather suppress,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We urge Cameroon authorities to drop charges against the two journalists, who were doing their job.”

The activists had gathered to commemorate the date in 1961 on which the local province–formerly under British colonial mandate as Southern Cameroons–became part of the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon, according to the journalists and news reports. For the government, the date is a commemoration of national unity, but locals use the occasion to renew long-standing demands for secession from Cameroon. Le Messager quoted an unnamed police officer as saying that security forces stormed the church to prevent the group from staging a protest march after the service.

At an October 19 press conference, Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary denied that journalists are detained in the country for their work, according to news reports. He was speaking in response to joint findings by CPJ, PEN International and France-based Internet Sans Frontières that investigating corruption and reporting on political unrest are punishable acts for Cameroonian journalists. “We can observe, while regretting it, that certain ordinary citizens, journalists by profession, sometimes find themselves in our prisons, following accusations based on common law offenses, punishable by criminal law,” Bakary said.

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/11/journalists-face-unlawful-assembly-charges-in-came.php

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In Chad, police beat journalist for asking questions

8 Nov

On September 30, 2012, Yves Phono Kepmi, a journalist with Radio Terre Nouvelle, was beaten by police officers in Chad’s southwestern Mayo-Kebbi Est region for asking questions about a civil disturbance he was reporting on, according to local journalists.

Kepmi told CPJ he had gone to the police station at Bongor, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital N’Djamena, to confirm the arrest of a man who had stabbed another man in the neck during a brawl. On the orders of two superior officers, three police officers beat him with belts and whips on his back, head, and ears, Kepmi said. He was handcuffed and detained overnight despite identifying himself as a journalist, he said.

“After I asked them my question, they began to beat me, saying I don’t have the right to ask them any questions,” Kepmi said.

In a statement, Chad’s Union of Private Radio Stations condemned the attack and called on the government and the High Communications Council, Chad’s state-run press regulatory body, to intervene and ensure the protection of journalists in the discharge of their duties.

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/11/in-chad-police-beat-journalist-for-asking-question.php

Journalist missing for nearly two weeks in Mexico

8 Nov

Mexico City, November 8, 2012–Mexican authorities must thoroughly investigate the disappearance of journalist Adela Jazmín Alcaraz López, who was last seen nearly two weeks ago, the Committee to Protect journalists said today. 

Alcaraz, an evening news anchor for cable Channel 12 in Rioverde, a small town in the middle of the central state of San Luis Potosi, disappeared on October 26. According to local news reports, a man who identified himself as “Captain Victor” phoned a brother of Alcaraz and said that the journalist’s two children–who had apparently been abducted with her–were safe and had been taken to the home of their babysitter. They were subsequently found there and turned over to Alcaraz’s mother, according to news reports.

Local journalists, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ they initially suspected the crime was a case of kidnapping for ransom, but there has been no word from the abductors besides the phone call regarding her children. The local press, including Alcaraz, avoids reporting stories that might anger the powerful organized crime groups operating in the area, although it is difficult to predict what might offend a local kingpin, local journalists told CPJ. Her family could not be contacted for comment.

“We are deeply concerned by the disappearance of Adela Jazmín Alcaraz López,” said CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, Carlos Lauría, from New York. “Mexican authorities must conduct a thorough investigation to find her and bring the kidnappers to justice.”

The state attorney general’s office has not said anything publicly about the case in a week; it last said the evidence was not clear if Alcaraz was kidnapped for ransom or murdered. An official of the federal special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists said there were federal agents in Rioverde investigating, but would give no details on whether the crime appeared to be associated with Alcaraz’s work as a journalist.

Drug-related violence has made Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. More than 50 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 2007. 

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/11/journalist-missing-for-nearly-two-weeks-in-mexico.php

Radio commentator gunned down in Philippines

8 Nov

New York, November 8, 2012–Authorities in the Philippines must immediately investigate the shooting death of radio journalist Julius Cauzo and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A gunman riding a motorcycle shot Cauzo, who was also on a motorcycle, around 8.30 a.m. today in the northern Philippine city, Cabanatuan, according to local and international news reports. Cauzo died of three gunshot wounds at a nearby hospital, the reports said. The murder took place in the lead-up to the International Day to End Impunity on November 23, a global campaign to promote justice for killed journalists.

Cauzo was a host and commentator for the local radio station DWJJ, executive vice-president of the Nueva Ecija Press Club, and was known for criticizing local politicians, news reports said. A colleague reported that he had received death threats before the murder, but the reason for the threats was not known, according to local newspaper The Philippine Star. Police are still investigating whether the murder was work-related, according to the reports.    

“We urge police to investigate Julius Cauzo’s murder immediately and thoroughly,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Impunity in the killing of journalists is an entrenched problem in the Philippines, and requires action from law enforcement as well as sustained attention to the problem through international efforts like the Day to End Impunity.”

CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity of five years has focused primarily on the Philippines and Russia, where journalists are killed frequently and prosecutions are rare.
The Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s Impunity Index–a list of countries where journalists are murdered and governments fail to solve the crimes–second only to Iraq and Somalia.

On November 23, CPJ will continue the global fight against impunity with the launch of a new digital initiative. You can follow the campaign through CPJ’s regional Asia accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

from Committee to Protect Journalists http://cpj.org/2012/11/radio-commentator-gunned-down-in-philippines.php

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