Journalist released in Cameroon

Cameroonian authorities released journalist Mimi Mefo after almost two weeks of detention over accusations of propagating false news and committing cyber crimes.

Cameroon is divided between the western Anglophone regions and the eastern Francophone regions, and is in the grips of an increasingly violent separatist crisis.

Mefo, who works for the privately owned broadcaster Equinoxe TV and runs her own website, reported on the unrest in the Anglophone regions.

On October 31, Mefo was summoned to appear before the national police over her report that the Cameroonian military was responsible for the killing of an American missionary.

She was jailed a few days later.

In Cameroon, the penalties for false news charges can range from heavy fines to several years in prison.

Despite a constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression, Cameroon is cracking down on journalists, arresting reporters for covering such topics as violence in the north and east, unrest in the western regions, the health of the president, and allegations of corruption.

Advocacy groups — such as the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union and the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists — campaigned for her release, and for an end to intimidation of all working journalists.

Angela Quintal, who runs the Africa program of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that journalists in Cameroon have been “repeatedly summoned simply for doing their work … In many instances, these summons resulted in detentions.”

The BBC reported that Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon, personally asked for the charges against Mefo to be dropped as a “gesture of magnanimity.”

Sources: The East African, The New York Times, Committee to Protect Journalists, BBC News

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