Cameroonian journalist Amadou Vamoulké, the former managing director of the state-owned Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV) broadcaster, was arrested in 2016 for alleged embezzlement. As of late 2021, he had been in court over 80 times, but the prosecution had yet to present any substantive evidence against him. Individuals close to Vamoulké assert that it was his independent mindedness when leading CRTV that caused his arrest and detention.
Vamoulké was arrested on July 29, 2016, according to media reports and one of the journalist’s lawyers, Alice Nkom. Vamoulké, who headed CRTV from 2005 until 2016, was removed from his post shortly before his arrest, according to media reports.
He has been held in Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, the capital, since his arrest, Nkom told CPJ via messaging app in October 2021. The prosecution has repeatedly requested the postponement of Vamoulké’s case in order to bring evidence, and each time the judge has agreed, according to Nkom.
Nkom said Vamoulké’s arrest was reprisal for his management of CRTV. "The official reason for his arrest is a pretext for trying to silence journalists in Cameroon … Amadou never accepted as black what he knew was white," Nkom said.
An individual familiar with Vamoulké’s journalistic career and his legal case who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ that Vamoulké had strong ethical and journalistic standards. He was reputed for "high levels of professionalism … in spite of directives from the government and state apparatus … in some cases he contravened the directives," the individual said. Without this adherence to journalistic values and concern for "general interests and general good" over "power to influence," Vamoulké would not be in detention, that person said.
In October 2017, the International Union of Francophone Press in a Facebook post attested to Vamoulké’s integrity and called his ongoing detention "a relentless attempt to demonstrate guilt despite the absence of facts justifying such an accusation."
“[H]earings are taking place at the rhythm of one session every month or every one-and-a-half month…there is absolutely no justice,” that person told CPJ in October 2020.
Nkom told CPJ that Vamoulké has been diagnosed with asthma, glaucoma, and neuropathy, a nerve disorder, while in prison, and said that he applied for evacuation to a medical facility outside Cameroon but was denied on November 28, 2019. His ailments persisted through 2021, the individual familiar with Vamoulké’s case said.
In June 2020, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a notice calling for Vamoulké’s immediate release and an assurance that he would receive medical treatment. That notice stated that the Cameroonian government had “failed to establish a legal basis for [his] pre-trial detention,” and classified his detention as “arbitrary.” The notice also stated that the working group was “not convinced” that Vamoulké’s work at CRTV led directly to his detention.
In response, the Cameroonian government asserted that Vamoulké’s detention “complies with legal provisions,” according to the notice.
Communication Minister Rene Sadi, who is also a government spokesperson, did not respond to CPJ’s calls and text messages for comment in October and November 2021. Sadi’s adviser, Charles Manda, also did not respond to an email or texts sent via messaging app in September, October, and November 2021.
CPJ emailed the government’s cabinet secretariat in September and November 2021, but did not receive any responses.