CPJ asks Confederation of African Football to urge release of jailed Cameroonian journalists

July 6, 2017 5:24 PM ET

Ahmad Ahmad
President of the Confederation of African Football
3 Abdel Khalek Sarwat Street,
6th October City 12566,
Egypt

Via Email: [email protected]
Via Facsimile: +20-2/3824 7274

July 6, 2017

Dear Mr. Ahmad,
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving press freedom, ask that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) join calls on the Cameroonian government to release all journalists detained for their work in Cameroon and to cease censoring and harassing the media ahead of the African Cup of Nations, scheduled to begin on January 12, 2019. Cameroon's appalling press freedom record and its continued use of military courts to try journalists on terrorism charges are a far cry from the vision of an "Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice, and the rule of law" the African Union, CAF, and other partners support in their Agenda 2063.

The Africa Cup of Nations will likely attract journalists and media coverage from around the world. Given Cameroon's continued disregard for press freedom, for a wide array of human rights, and for accountability for crimes against journalists, we are concerned that visiting journalists will not be able to report freely from Cameroon. Their Cameroonian colleagues already cannot.

International sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee are adopting human-rights assessments as part of the process by which countries bid to host events. They are implementing press freedom monitoring mechanisms. We urge the CAF to consider a similar course. The CAF should not reward repressive governments for their repression.

Cameroon's treatment of the press has steadily deteriorated since December 2016, notably with the targeting of Anglophone media and the use of anti-terrorism legislation to silence critics or those who report news the government does not wish to see reported. Radio France Internationale journalist Ahmed Abba, jailed since 2015, was sentenced in April by a military court to 10 years in prison for his work. At least six other journalists remain behind bars in the country awaiting trial by military courts on terrorism charges.

Faced with protests and labor strikes, Cameroonian authorities cut off internet access to the western, Anglophone regions of the country between January and April of this year, a sweeping form of censorship so broad it does not distinguish between content or source. In March, CPJ asked Cameroonian Minister of Information Issa Tchiroma Bakary for information regarding the detention of journalists Tim Finnian, Atia Azohnwi, Amos Fofung, Thomas Awah Junior, Mfor Ndong, Hans Achomba, and Medjo Lewis, following his contention that no journalists were in jail in the country. He has not responded.

Meanwhile, media outlets and their staff continue to fear suspension or other reprisal for their work.

Last month you spoke of the "central place" of "transparency" in opening "a new era...for African football." We ask you to show support for the very people working for that transparency in Cameroon: the country's journalists who today work in fear of joining their colleagues behind bars for that same commitment to transparency.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these important issues in person.

Sincerely,

Angela Quintal
Africa Program Coordinator

CC:
Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA
Fatma Samoura, FIFA Secretary-General

EDITOR'S NOTE: This text has been updated to include Tim Finnian's name.

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