Yaoundé: Journalist Killings Cast Chill Over Investigative Reporting 0

Cameroonian journalists say they remain fearful more than three months after the abduction and killings of investigative journalist Martinez Zogo and radio presenter Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe.

Dieudonne Koutche was among several dozen civilians who stopped by a memorial to the slain journalists at Amplitude FM radio in Yaounde on April 21, 2023.

He said he feels for journalists in Cameroon because it is a country where officials and business executives can decide one morning to abduct and kill a reporter.

Charges of torture and complicity in torture for the more than 20 people arrested in connection with Zogo’s killing are not convincing, Koutche added. The culprits should face more serious charges, he said.

Zogo was a radio host at Amplitude FM. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists reports that Zogo had been investigating allegations of corruption involving senior officials in the central African state.

His mutilated body was found on January 22 in Yaounde, five days after he was abducted.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered an investigation into Zogo’s killing after a national and an international outcry.

Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, a prominent business leader with holdings in banking, finance, insurance and property, as well as the L’Anecdote company, which owns a daily newspaper and several pro-government TV and radio stations, was arrested.

Zogo had reported in one of his radio programs that many senior officials, including Belinga, wanted to kill him. But Zogo pledged to continue digging deep into corruption, which he said involved Belinga and many government ministers.

The police also arrested a former chief presidential security guard, senior police officers and a police chief in connection with Zogo’s killing.

Charly Tchouemou, editor-in-chief of Amplitude FM, said reporters are receiving threats, and the momentum to report graft is fading.

He said since Zogo was killed, some Amplitude FM journalists are scared of reporting corruption and social ills. Tchouemou said Amplitude FM reporters are particularly scared because they receive anonymous phone calls from suspected government officials, as well as supporters and business partners of Belinga. He said the callers threaten to kill journalists who continue to report that the business mogul may have masterminded Zogo’s killing.

A court in Yaounde has twice denied bail for Belinga.

Charles Tchoungang, who leads Belinga’s legal defense, said it is not proper for his client to be in jail while other suspects are free. He spoke to VOA by telephone Friday from Douala, Cameroon’s economic hub.

Tchoungang said he is surprised that Belinga was arrested, while some government ministers who are prime suspects are still free. He added that keeping Belinga detained does not answer the question as to who killed Zogo, because he is sure that the killers are high-profile government officials who are falsely accusing Belinga.

The government has yet to respond to Tchoungang’s allegations that senior government officials planned Zogo’s killing. The government, however, says it will investigate and punish all killers according to Cameroonian law.

Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe, another radio presenter, was found dead outside his home in the capital on February 2, allegedly gunned down by unknown assailants. The government has not commented on his killing.

Cameroonian journalists say the two deaths scare them, and they have reported threats to the police. The police told VOA that it had received complaints from reporters and that it is its duty to protect every civilian.

Source: VOA