Pressure mounts on Cameroon to release journalist jailed for covering Boko Haram

RSF demands release of Cameroonian journalist jailed for covering Boko Haram activities

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in collaboration with other international non-governmental organisations are demanding the release of Ahmed Abba, a journalist who was handed a 10-year jail sentence in April for covering activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Abba was a correspondent with Radio France Internationale in Cameroon before he was arrested and tried before a military court in Yaoundé, the country’s capital.

He was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined the sum of €85,000 on a charge of “laundering the proceeds of a terrorist act”.

However, Abba claims he is innocent, insisting that he always kept a professional journalist’s distance with the terrorist group.

A coordinated support committee was launched by the RSF ahead of Abba’s appeal hearing on Thursday in order to step up public and political pressure on the Cameroonian authorities.

Cléa Kahn-Sriber, head of RSF’s Africa desk, said: “Bringing together well-known figures from around the world and especially Africa, the committee has decided to begin online by creating a Facebook page in which we will share the messages of his supporters.

“This is just the first step. The campaign will grow in strength if the authorities do not free Ahmed Abba.”

The campaign to free Abba has received continent-wide support, not only from journalists and media houses but also from other performance artistes such as musicians and comedians.

So far, a total of 36 organisations, including Amnesty International, Journalist in Danger (JED), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have joined the campaign to free Abba from prison custody.

The CPJ has also named Abba as one of the winners of its 2017 International Press Freedom Award.

“Each day that RFI journalist Ahmed Abba spends behind bars in a Cameroonian jail is another travesty of justice, which sends a chilling message to the media community in Cameroon,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator.

“We urge the Cameroonian government to free Abba without delay and to right this injustice. The world is watching.”






     

     

    According to RSF, the proceedings against Abba were marked by gross irregularities.

    “After his (Abba’s) arrest on 30 July 2015, he was held incommunicado and tortured by the intelligence services for nearly three months (and) no hard evidence was ever produced during the trial, which was postponed 18 times.” an RSF statement read in part.

    Cameroon is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, four places lower than in 2016.

    The Boko Haram terrorist group is based in the north-eastern region of Nigeria but it began stepping up operations in northern Cameroon in 2014.

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