YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Journalists and activists in Cameroon are calling on the government to respond to media reports this week that the military has killed in detention journalist Samuel Wazizi. The military detained Wazizi about a year ago for allegedly supporting anglophone separatists and he has not been seen in public since.
Lawyer and rights defender Christopher Ndong says he has reliable information that Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi died in a military hospital in Yaoundé of wounds inflicted on him by the military.
"The brutal torture that was exerted on Wazizi by military officers is a condemnable act," said Ndong. "He was arrested and badly tortured and when he fell ill, they took him to a military hospital in Yaoundé, where he finally died. And so, we are asking for an independent investigation to detect all the culprits so that they should be brought to book and punished."
Ndong says does not know when Wazizi died but most local media have this week been reporting his death as confirmed and that military officials are refusing to release his body.
Cameroonian activists and journalists are calling on the government to respond to the reports and explain the circumstances, if Wazizi is in fact dead.
Ambe Macmillan Awah is president of Cameroon’s Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ).
He says Wazizi’s death in prison would prove how officials continue to abuse the media.
"Cameroon is a state of law and our laws provide for journalists to be tried. So, we keep asking, why was the law not applied? We are calling on the competent authorities to investigate and bring all the perpetrators to book," said Awah. "Nobody is above the law."
Samuel Wazizi, whose legal name is Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, worked for Chillen Music Television.
Police arrested Wazizi last August for allegedly supporting anglophone separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking western regions and turned him over to the military. He hasn’t been seen since. The military claims Wazizi was hosting rebels on his farm.
After Wazizi’s disappearance, authorities threatened to go after any journalists reporting on alleged military abuses or giving a voice to the rebels.
Yaoundé-based freelance journalist Ndi Eugene Ndi says it is becoming impossible to report in Cameroon’s English-speaking west regions under such pressure.
"If you do a report which seems like giving some little credit to the separatists, you should be sure of meeting a military court," said Ndi. "It is not easy. We are not safe."
Cameroon’s Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) says Wazizi was being held in a prison in the capital, Yaounde.
Both a military spokesman and a government spokesman refused to comment on Wazizi and the reports of his death.