Martinez Zogo

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Martinez Zogo, the managing director of the privately owned Cameroonian radio broadcaster Amplitude FM, was found dead on January 22, 2023, after going missing five days earlier.

At about 8 p.m. on January 17, four hooded men in a black Prado car followed Zogo while he was driving to his home outside the capital city of Yaoundé, according to news reports and Aristide Ekambi, secretary-general of the Littoral region of the Cameroon Journalist Trade Union, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Zogo sought help at a nearby gendarmerie station, and the attackers collided with his vehicle as he drove to the station’s closed gate, prompting Zogo to exit his car and run for help, according to those sources. The journalist shouted, “Help me, they want to kill me,” according to a witness cited in an audio news report reviewed by CPJ.

The men forced Zogo into their car and fled the scene, according to those reports and Ekambi.

On January 22, the journalist’s body was found naked and dumped in an empty plot of land on the outskirts of the capital and was taken to a hospital in Yaoundé for an autopsy, according to news reports and Zogo’s widow Arlette Diana, who told CPJ she had identified her husband’s body at a morgue.

Zogo was sodomized with a stick, subjected to electric shocks, and his body was mutilated, according to media reports and Amplitude FM editor-in-chief Charlie Tchouémou, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. His body was found with a broken right foot, multiple severed fingers, and a twisted tongue, according to Tchouémou and those reports.

The Cameroonian government said in a January 22 statement that Zogo’s body had “suffered substantial physical abuse” and was in an “advanced state of composition.” The statement said investigations were underway to find the perpetrators of such an “unacceptable and unspeakable crime, which cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

Zogo, whose full name was Arsène Saloman Mbani Zogo, hosted the daily current affairs program “Embouteillage” (Gridlock) on Amplitude FM, where he discussed corruption allegations involving prominent people, according to media reports.

Two weeks before his abduction, Zogo told listeners that people involved in corrupt activities wanted to kill him, reports said. Three people familiar with Zogo’s case told CPJ on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal that Zogo had received a call weeks before his abduction from an unidentified person telling him to be careful because someone wanted to kidnap and murder him.

A local journalist who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, also citing fear of reprisal, said Zogo had told him two days before his abduction that he had received death threats from Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, a prominent Cameroonian businessman and media owner. The day before he was abducted, Zogo visited Haman Mana, the publisher of Le Jour newspaper, and told him he feared he would be killed, according to media reports and a CPJ interview with Mana.

Zogo had recently criticized the payment of tens of billions of Central African francs from the Cameroonian treasury that allegedly benefitted Belinga, according to media reports.

Zogo had also said on-air that he possessed documents relating to General Ivo Desancio Yenwo, the director of presidential security, which he intended to make public, according to media reports. He also said he had documents proving that senior state officials had stolen several million U.S. dollars in public funds since 2013, and he also sent a dossier to several institutions and media outlets about alleged public sector corruption, according to media reports.

CPJ called one of Yenwo’s subordinates for comment, but they did not answer.

An anonymous former Cameroonian intelligence officer quoted in two local news reports alleged that Zogo may have been the victim of a political power struggle that sought to frame Belinga.

On January 31, authorities arrested Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, head of the General Directorate of External Intelligence (DGRE), and Justin Danwe, director of operations at the DGRE, according to local news reports.

On February 2, Cameroon’s office of the president announced in a statement published on social media that investigations by a combined force of police and gendarmerie had resulted in the arrest of several unnamed individuals “highly suspected of being involved in this heinous crime.”

On February 6, Belinga was arrested at his home in Yaoundé, according to a statement by his newspaper L’Anecdote and Belinga’s lawyer, Charles Tchoungang, who spoke to CPJ by phone. CPJ called Belinga and sent him questions via messaging app on January 31, but did not receive a response.

On February 6, Bruno Bidjang, the director of L’Anecdote, was also arrested, according to news reports.

Between January 31 and February 9, more than 20 people, including Belinga, were arrested in connection with the investigation and presented to the military prosecutor on February 14, according to multiple news reports and Tchoungang.

On March 4, authorities filed provisional charges against Belinga, accusing him of complicity in torture, and transferred him to be held in preventive detention for at least six months in Kondengui Principal Prison, in Yaounde, according to a statement by L’Anecdote, news reports, and Tchoungang.

Such provisional charges are filed while an examining magistrate conducts an investigation to decide whether the defendants should be discharged, new charges should be filed, or if the case should proceed to trial, according to news reports, a government statement reviewed by CPJ, and Cameroon’s criminal procedure code.

Also on March 4, authorities provisionally charged Eko Eko with negligence and violation of instructions, and Danwe and unnamed other members of the security forces with kidnapping and torture, and transferred them to pretrial detention in Kondengui prison, according to news reports and that statement.

Authorities released Bidjang pending investigation, according to those sources and Tchoungang.

On March 23, Belinga appealed a military court’s decision not to grant him provisional release, and a hearing on that appeal was scheduled for April 13, news reports said.

Neighbors saw unidentified men outside Zogo’s home several nights before his abduction, and the brakes on his widow’s vehicle had been recently tampered with, according to news reports, which said she was in a car accident two days before her husband’s disappearance.

Zogo’s widow told CPJ that, the day Zogo disappeared, a woman told her that someone had been in his neighborhood asking about where he lived.

CPJ called, emailed, or sent requests for comment via messaging app to Cameroonian Communications Minister René Emmanuel Sadi, Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji, Gendarmerie Investigation Unit head Jean-Pierre Otoulou and the secretary-general of the presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, but did not receive any replies.

CPJ also contacted the national police via messaging app and email, and received an acknowledgement that the message had been received but did not receive any answers to CPJ’s questions.

Zogo served a two-month prison sentence for criminal defamation in 2020, as CPJ documented at the time.