Journalist beaten at opposition rally

New York, May 1, 2006—The publisher of Cameroon’s English-language tabloid The Chronicle was beaten unconscious by the bodyguard and the driver of an opposition leader, local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists today.

Eric Motomu, who also edits the paper, told CPJ he was attacked on Friday at a rally in the opposition stronghold of Northwest Province by the two men, who work for Social Democratic Front (SDF) leader John Fru Ndi. Motomu said the bodyguard told him the SDF would not “tolerate” his articles about its leader.

Motomu, who has interviewed Fru Ndi many times, said he was treated at two local hospitals for head and chest injuries. He is recuperating at his home in the provincial capital, Bamenda. Motomu said he had reported the attack to the police, but he was not aware of any official investigation.

Earlier on Friday, Motomu said he had been summoned by police in Bamenda in connection with a defamation case brought against him by Fru Ndi. The case stems from an article, reprinted in The Chronicle after it was published in another local newspaper, listing Fru Ndi as a “billionaire.” Motomu was told to report to police again on Tuesday, though he has not yet been formally charged, he said. Defamation is a criminal offense in Cameroon.

Local journalists told CPJ that The Chronicle has run a recent series of very critical articles about Fru Ndi.

“Nothing can justify this brutal attack on Eric Motomu,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “We call on the authorities in Cameroon to investigate and prosecute this crime. If Fru Ndi’s bodyguard and driver are found responsible as Motomu alleges, they should be punished in accordance with the law.”