Radio station damaged in arson attack

New York, January 4, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by an arson attack on private Cameroonian radio station Freedom FM. Fire broke out in the building housing the station on Tuesday evening, according to Freedom FM’s founder Pius Njawe, who received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 1991.

He told CPJ that police opened an investigation into the blaze, which started in a stairwell leading to the station’s 100-foot-high (30-meter-high) rooftop antenna. The fire damaged the base of the transmitter. Police took away a gasoline can found at the scene.

Freedom FM was shuttered by the government before it could go on air nearly three years ago but the government unsealed its studios last July. The station has not broadcast, however, because its equipment was damaged during the government-ordered shutdown. It is suing government for damages.

“There is evidence that a crime has been committed and the government has an obligation to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, particularly in light of the official harassment of Freedom FM,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

Njawe said he was punched and kicked by a police officer as he tried to photograph a fire truck that was involved in a traffic accident after it left the scene of the radio station fire. Njawe said the policeman tried to seize his camera

For more information on Freedom FM see CPJ’s July 14 alert: