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 2020, he had been in court over 30 times but the prosecution had yet to present any 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.
Vamoulké has been detained in Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé since his arrest, and no evidence has been presented against him despite at least 30 scheduled hearings at the Special Criminal Court, Nkom told CPJ. Each time Vamoulké has appeared in court, the prosecution has requested postponement 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, the same individual 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,” the individual told CPJ in October 2020.
Nkom told CPJ in late September 2019 that Vamoulké has been diagnosed with asthma, glaucoma, and neuropathy, a nerve disorder, while in prison, and said that he has applied for evacuation to a medical facility outside Cameroon. These ailments persisted through 2020, the individual familiar with his 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 a text message requesting comment in late 2020. His adviser, Charles Manda, also did not respond to calls or texts via messaging app. An email to the government’s cabinet secretariat in September 2020 was not acknowledged.