Jailed journalist dies in Cameroon prison

New York, April 22, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by today’s death of newspaper editor Germain S. Ngota Ngota, whose health deteriorated while he was incarcerated in Cameroon. The death certificate for Ngota, editor of the private bimonthly Cameroon Express, determined that the journalist died from a lack of medical attention in Kondengui prison in the capital, Yaoundé, according to editors Hilaire Medjo of the weekly Nouvelle Vision and François Fogno Fotso of the weekly Génération Libre.

Ngota, widely known by his nickname, Bibi, was one of three journalists imprisoned since February because they were investigating corruption allegations involving top presidential aide Laurent Esso and the state-run oil company SNH. Authorities have not addressed claims by reporter Simon Hervé Nko’o of the weekly Bebela that security agents used psychological and physical torture to force the journalists—including Ngota—to reveal their source for a document on which the allegations were based.

Ngota was detained in the Kosovo ward of Kondengui prison, where hard-core felons are held, according to local journalists. Friends and colleagues who visited the journalist in prison on Sunday told CPJ that he had complained of fatigue, gout, and joint pain. Ngota also suffered from high blood pressure and a hernia, they said.

Cameroonian officials notified Ngota’s family of his death but had not publicly commented by late today. Assistants at the communications department of the Cameroonian presidency told CPJ no officials were available for comment. An assistant to Cameroon Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told CPJ the minister would only respond to a written request for comment, which CPJ sent today.

“The authorities failed to provide Ngota with adequate medical treatment despite repeated requests by his family and colleagues,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “We hold them responsible for his death and the well-being of the three other journalists still held in Cameroonian prisons.”

Newspaper editor Nestor Nga Etoga, who knew Ngota since 1995, described the late journalist as “talented” and well-known locally for his investigations on public corruption in the oil sector. According to Fotso, Ngota, who was also known as Bibi, launched Cameroon Express in 2002-2003 and freelanced for several other publications. He was a 15-year veteran of the Cameroon press.

Ngota, 38, was the first Cameroonian journalist to lose his life in relation to his work, according to CPJ research, which goes back to 1992. He is survived by a wife and two children.

Editor’s note: The original version of this alert has been modified in paragraph two to include Ngota’s widely used nickname.