APRIL 20, 2005
Posted: May 12, 2005
Guibaï Gatama and Abdoulaye Oumaté L’Oeil du Sahel
On April 20, a court in Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s Far North Province, sentenced Guibaï Gatama, publication director of the independent weekly L’Oeil du Sahel, and Abdoulaye Oumaté, a journalist for the paper, to five months in prison and fined them 5 million CFA francs (approximately U.S. $9,782) in a criminal defamation case.
According to local sources, the case was brought by Ahmed Aliou Ousman, a commander of a brigade of military police, or gendarmes, based in the northern town of Fotokol. The charge stemmed from an article published in February in L’Oeil du Sahel, which alleged that local gendarmes had extorted money at roadblocks.
The newspaper’s staff was not informed of Aliou’s charges or of the judicial hearing until the sentence had been passed, Gatama said. Gatama appealed the sentence, but expressed concern that a second commander named in the article had also filed criminal defamation charges.
Local sources told CPJ that journalists from L’Oeil du Sahel had been harassed frequently by local authorities. The newspaper is one of the few independent media outlets to operate in Cameroon’s northern region.