Police investigating the murder of a Cameroonian journalist have arrested a prominent businessman and government ally.
Amougou Belinga, owner of a media company, and two other people were arrested in connection with the murder of journalist and regime critic Martínez Zogo.
Zogo, the director of Amplitude FM, was kidnapped on January 17 and his mutilated body was found four days later on the outskirts of the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé.
Zogo used his radio show to challenge alleged corrupt practices carried out by government and business figures.
Paul Chouta, another journalist who was kidnapped and mistreated last year, raised the alarm about Zogo’s disappearance.
When her abduction was announced, some social media influencers and citizen journalists were quick to suggest that her murder might be related to the last radio show she hosted before her abduction, where she “called” Belinga by name.
The February 6 arrests follow the earlier detention of around 20 members of Cameroon’s General Directorate of External Investigations, part of the government’s security services.
The arrests of the GDEI chief led investigators to Belinga, according to media surveillance reports.
The current investigation led by a mixed unit of gendarmes and police arrested Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, general manager of Anecdote Media Group, journalist Bruno Bidjang and Belinga’s father-in-law, retired presidential guard colonel Etoundi Nsoe.
This was confirmed by the head of communication for Anecdote, Inés Arielle Belinga, who issued a statement to the media. “He (Belinga) is in the Secretary of State for Defense in the framework of investigations,” she said.
The arrests follow the publication of a report by press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which said Martinez’s murder was a state crime.
A group of human rights activists, led by Kah Walla of the Cameroon People’s Party, have signed a joint statement, pledging to keep up the pressure on the authorities and get justice for Martinez.
Kah Walla has used social media to frequently repost the photo of another journalist who went missing and was later announced dead by Cameroonian authorities.
Samuel Wazizi was arrested in Buea, southwest region, in August 2019.
Following pressure from journalists’ associations and the international community, the government announced that he died in custody of sepsis, a blood infection that can be caused by wounds.
Wazizi’s body has never been produced by the government, and his case reached a dead end. His family has not been able to collect or identify his body.
Every Friday Walla and his team dress in black to protest the injustices committed against citizens, protests they call #FridayInBlack.
“No Cameroonian should die for investigating the government of our country. To ask questions. For protesting the theft of our money,” he tweeted.
Zogo’s murder has also been condemned by various country representatives and diplomatic corps, all calling on the Cameroonian state to arrest those responsible.
Dangerous for journalists
Reporters Without Borders says that Cameroon is one of the worst places to practice journalism. The organization places the country at the bottom of its press freedom index, at 118 out of 180.
Cameroonian journalist Elizabeth Tabi, who works for the country’s English-language daily The Guardian Post, says of working in these conditions: “Journalism in Cameroon is in danger. Those who try to write articles that hold state authorities or businessmen accountable run the risk of being imprisoned or assassinated. We are not safe. Our safety matters.”
The coastal president of the Cameroon Journalists Union (CJTU), Aristide Ekambi, said: “No one will recommend the profession to their son, especially with what is happening.”
He sees the current situation as an opportunity to keep journalists safe in the public eye and even draw attention to past disappearances and deaths, such as that of Samuel Wazizi.
“To this day, what is happening at the moment has allowed us to return to the Wazizi case. Wazizi was summoned, arrested by an unknown team who took him from Buea to Yaoundé and after a few weeks, the signs of him disappeared. It was only later that we learned from the government spokesman that he had died. We protested and called for Justice but nothing happened,” Ekambe said.
But journalists keep disappearing.
A week after the discovery of the body of Martínez Zogo, another journalist and Reverend Father, Jean Jacque Ola Bébé, was found dead.
It is unclear how he died, but many colleagues say he had repeatedly returned to the subject of Zogo’s murder during his television appearances.
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