Radio presenter and commentator Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe, 41, was found dead with bullet wounds to his face on February 3, 2023, near his home in the Mimboman suburb of the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé, according to news reports and Pharel Ateba, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster Galaxy FM, where Ola Bebe appeared regularly as a guest.
Ola Bebe, who was also an outspoken Orthodox Catholic priest, was last seen around 5 p.m. on February 2 at his home when he told his wife, Myriam, that he was being followed by unknown people, according to Ateba and Biloi Abedi Thimothée, Ola Bebe’s younger brother, who both spoke to CPJ by phone.
When his wife later noticed that Ola Bebe had left the house, she tried to call him several times, but he did not answer, Ateba said. On February 3, a person who identified themselves as a gendarmerie commander called and told her that Ola Bebe’s body had been found, according to news reports and Thimothée.
Ateba said he visited the gendarmerie commander of the Emombo neighborhood of Yaoundé on February 3, who confirmed that Ola Bebe’s body was found and had been taken to a morgue.
Timothée and Ateba told CPJ that the family wanted authorities to conduct an autopsy and determine the circumstances of Ola Bebe’s death but that so far, neither the doctors in charge of the autopsy nor the gendarmerie commander had contacted them or responded to their requests for information. Ola Bebe’s family said he cannot be buried until the autopsy is complete and the circumstances of his death are determined.
Ola Bebe had regularly appeared as a guest on local radio stations, including “Au coeur de la République” (At the heart of the Republic), a daily show for Galaxy FM, where he commented on current affairs issues, including politics and corruption, Ateba said. Ola Bebe also hosted a religious weekly show called “Le Jour du Seigneur” (The Day of the Lord) for Galaxy FM, according to Ateba, who added that Bebe knew how to separate his role from as a journalist from that of a priest.
Ola Bebe previously worked as a reporter for privately owned broadcasters Galaxy FM, Amplitude FM, Voice Radio, and Dunamis FM, according to Ateba.
Ola Bebe’s last appearance was on February 2, 2023, the day he went missing, as a guest on the daily show “Boîte Noire” for private broadcaster Mo’o TV, where he spoke about the murder of Martinez Zogo. Zogo, the managing director of Amplitude FM, was found dead on January 22, after going missing five days earlier.
During the show, Ola Bebe discussed Zogo’s murder and his recent expose about the embezzlement of public funds, according to CPJ’s review of the segment and Paul Dazi Biya, the director of Mo’o TV, who hosted the segment and spoke to CPJ by phone. Ola Bebe said during the show that people had been misled about those responsible for Zogo’s death and that Amougou Belinga, a businessman who was arrested, was not responsible.
On February 11, U.N. human rights spokesperson Seif Magango called on authorities to ensure that Ola Bebe’s killing is “independently, effectively, and impartially investigated” and that those found to be responsible for the killing, at all levels, are held to account. In a February 17 statement, Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, also called for an investigation into the killing of Ola Bebe.
CPJ’s call to Cameroonian police spokesperson Joyce Ndjem was declined and subsequent messaging app messages did not receive a response. CPJ’s email to René Emmanuel Sadi, Cameroon’s minister of communication, received no reply.