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 2022, he had been in court over 140 times, but the prosecution had yet to present any substantive evidence against him. Individuals close to Vamoulké assert that his independent-mindedness leading CRTV 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 the capital, Yaoundé, since his arrest, Nkom told CPJ via messaging app. The prosecution has repeatedly requested the postponement of Vamoulké’s case to bring evidence, and each time the judge has agreed, according to Nkom.
Nkom said Vamoulké’s arrest was a 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."
In February 2018, a new embezzlement indictment was added to Vamoulké’s case, which implicated at least eight other individuals, according to news reports and another person who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
“[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 second person told CPJ in October 2020.
Nkom told CPJ that Vamoulké had 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 2022, the second individual familiar with Vamoulké’s case said. As of November 2022, he had appeared in court over 140 times, Nkom told CPJ.
In June 2020, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a notice calling for Vamoulké’s immediate release, calling the detention “arbitrary,” 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 that the working group was “not convinced” that Vamoulké’s CRTV work directly led to his arrest.
In response, the Cameroonian government asserted that Vamoulké’s detention “complies with legal provisions,” according to the notice.
In February 2022, during the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, CPJ and 26 other civil society organizations published an open letter calling for the release of journalists and others arbitrarily detained in the country.
CPJ’s calls, texts, and messages sent to Cameroonian government spokesperson Rene Sadi via messaging app, and to his adviser Charles Manda, went unanswered in October and November 2022, and an email sent to the government’s cabinet office did not receive a reply.