Mancho Bibixy, a broadcaster for the private radio station Abakwa FM in Bamenda, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on anti-state charges by a military court in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, on May 25, 2018, according to news reports and a copy of the judgment seen by CPJ. The journalist was found guilty of terrorism, secession, hostility to the fatherland, spreading false information, revolution, insurrection, rebellion, and contempt for civil servants, according to the judgment and a local news report.
Bibixy was tried along with two other journalists, Tsi Conrad and Thomas Awah Junior, and four other Anglophone detainees on charges relating to the crisis in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions that began in late 2016 with protests by teachers and lawyers about the perceived marginalization of English by Cameroon’s majority French-speaking government.
One of the defense lawyers, Emmanuel Simh, told Voice of America in late May that an appeal would be filed. A June 20, 2018, report in Daily News Cameroon and a person with knowledge of the case who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal said an appeal had been filed, but no date had been set.
Bibixy was arrested at 8:00 p.m. on January 17, 2017, at the home of a friend in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest Region. CPJ did not include Bibixy in its 2017 prison census because it could not confirm at the time that his arrest was related to his journalism.
Bibixy was questioned in Bamenda and taken to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, on January 18, 2017, and interrogated by a joint team of police officers and gendarmeries at the latter’s headquarters in the capital, the person told CPJ. He was given printed copies of posts on his Facebook timeline and accused of using Facebook and Abakwa FM Radio to sponsor terrorism, the person said.
Bibixy, known as “BBC,” hosted three different shows on Abakwa FM, including a popular weekday news and current affairs program in pidgin called “The Comedy Show” which was critical of the government’s social and economic marginalization of English speakers, the person said. In an article in French newspaper Le Monde, an unnamed radio colleague described how Bibixy’s “The Comedy Show” focused on why lawyers took to the streets in Bamenda on October 16, 2016, to protest the marginalization of English in the region’s courts.
Bixby was repeatedly summoned by authorities and briefly detained in the weeks leading up to his January 17, 2017, arrest, including by the security police and police intelligence in Bamenda, as well as the regional representative of the communication ministry, the person familiar with his case told CPJ. “They played recorded excerpts of the program and accused (him) of fighting the state,” the person said.
Bibixy increasingly aligned himself with the protesting lawyers and teachers and participated in public protests, most notably on November 21, 2016, where he stood in an open coffin in one of Bamenda’s main streets and denounced the slow rate of economic development in Bamenda, according to news reports.
On October 19, Bibixy was briefly detained at the entrance to the regional hospital in Bamenda after interviewing protesters who had been wounded after police allegedly shot them, said the person. The interviews were for Abakwa FM and privately owned CNTV in Bamenda, but all his equipment was confiscated, according to the same person.
The independent Cameroon Journalists’ Trade Union wrote to President Paul Biya in May 2018 asking for Bibixy and Awah Junior to be pardoned, according to its president, Denis Nkwebo, and a local media report.
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, the communication minister and government spokesman, did not answer repeated calls for comment, nor did he respond to several text and WhatsApp messages, as well as an email to his personal assistant seeking reaction.
Bibixy after a night’s detention at the headquarters of the Gendarmerie in Yaoundé was transferred to Kondengui Principal Prison in the capital on January 19, 2017, and was moved to Kondengui Central Prison in May 2017, where fellow journalists Conrad and Awah were also being held in late 2018, according to people with knowledge of the case who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.