With elections scheduled for next year and Cameroon hosting the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in 2019, stifling criticism, including of the anti-terrorism law, is likely to come under increased international scrutiny. Four other journalists arrested under the 2014 law were recently released. They had been arrested for covering up the government`s response to the Anglophone strike. Journalists detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act are treated harshly pending trial. According to details provided to CPJ about Abbas`s March 24 testimony before the military court, and people familiar with his case and speaking to CPJ on condition of anonymity, Abba was held in solitary confinement for at least three months after his arrest. Members of the secret service beat him with machetes and sticks and stepped on his back in their boots. He was initially threatened with the death penalty. Cameroon continued its cooperation on TC with the international community. During the year, Cameroon contributed to the functioning of the MMF. Cameroon also remained a member of the Trans-Saharan Partnership to Combat Terrorism. Combating terrorist threats remained one of the top security priorities of the Cameroonian government, which continued to work with the United States to improve the capabilities of its security forces. He told CPJ, “I`m not afraid to stand up for the truth. I will not be silenced.
Referring to the terrorism law, he said journalists like Abba are obliged to disclose their sources, “even if it is information they don`t have.” Legislation, law enforcement and border security: In 2020, Cameroon prosecuted many alleged Boko Haram-linked defendants for terrorist crimes. U.S. government officials have observed greater adherence to the principles of a fair trial in court, including by asking for evidence to support convictions. In September, a judge at the Yaoundé military court sentenced four Cameroonian soldiers to 10 years in prison for killing 13 unarmed civilians in the Far North during an operation against Boko Haram in 2015. Cameroon`s anti-terrorism law is a powerful tool of fear, according to opposition parties, the media, trade unions, civil society and human rights organizations. The provisions of the law are criticized as being too broad, with a slight risk of abuse by political opponents and the right to freedom of expression. The law provides for a maximum death penalty and allows the authorities to arrest people accused of terrorism indefinitely. It also provides for prosecution before military courts, which violates article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees individuals a fair, independent and public hearing of all criminal charges against them, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights, which Cameroon ratified in 1989. The African Charter states: “Military courts should under no circumstances have jurisdiction over civilians.” Civilians brought to justice by a military court are often denied their right to a fair trial and an appeal.
Livelihoods are also threatened. Anjianjei Constantine, who hosted “Talking Point” on the private LTM television station in Douala, told CPJ that he was fired in January after refusing to sign a document in which he would respect a government order not to discuss secession or federalism. The authorities also sought to target social media – described by the government daily The Cameroon Tribune on 1 November 2016 as “rapidly becoming a threat to peace and a secret instrument of manipulation”. In a speech to Parliament on 10 November 2016, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, President of the National Assembly, described social media as a “new form of terrorism”. as dangerous as a missile,” the media say. In addition to Abba, CPJ was aware of at least four other journalists charged under the 2014 anti-terrorism law for their reporting: Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, the Sun`s political editor; Hans Achomba, documentary filmmaker; and Tim Finnian, editor and editor-in-chief of the weekly Life Time, were all detained for several months until a presidential decree of 30 August 2017 guaranteed their release. The decree also ended the criminal case against Jean-Claude Agbortem of the online magazine Camer Veritas, who was released on bail for incitement to terrorism. All faced a military court and, if convicted, faced the death penalty. Cameroon has used its 2014 anti-terrorism law to “silence critics and suppress dissent,” according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Committee to Protect Journalists. The far north has suffered three suicide bombings this month that have killed at least 34 people.
Although such attacks took place almost daily at Boko Haram`s base in northeastern Nigeria, they were rare in neighbouring countries. The attacks came days before a two-day official visit by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to Cameroon to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Abba had spent most of the previous day interviewing Nigerian refugees who had fled the extremist group. In a statement released at the time of Abba`s conviction in April, RFI director Cécile Mégie said the French government-funded broadcaster had provided “irrefutable evidence” that Abba had not tolerated terrorism in its reporting. When Mégie was asked to comment on the report, she referred CPJ to the broadcaster`s statement. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Cameroon to revise the anti-terrorism law in line with international standards, decriminalize defamation and abolish the National Communication Council in favor of an independent regulator with narrower powers. The NCC is the crown agency responsible for media oversight. “Publications publish blindly because the government can decide out of frustration that any published report tries to favor agitators,” said the editor-in-chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“We are not told what the difference is between reporting the facts or praising what is happening, so we run the risk of violating the anti-terrorism law.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least five journalists have been arrested in Cameroon and charged under the law that introduced heavy penalties, including the death penalty for involvement or complicity in terrorism. Cameroon: New law adopted to fight terrorism. 2014. Website. www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2014-12-18/cameroon-new-law-on-repression-of-terrorism-passed/. The Biya government wants to avoid a situation like Nigeria, where journalists covered Boko Haram and the government was unable to “control the narrative,” Smith said. He noted that journalists who want to report from the front line in the fight against Boko Haram need the approval of the Ministries of Defense and Communications and must be integrated. (December 18, 2014) Cameroonian lawmakers have passed new counterterrorism laws that include the death penalty for citizens who exercise, promote or sponsor terrorism as individuals or groups. The legislation will now be promulgated by President Paul Biya for promulgation. (Ngala Killian Chimtom, Cameroonian Anti-Terrorism Law – Overthrow of Human Freedoms, INTER PRESS SERVICE (5 December 2014); Disproportionate sanctions for the media in Cameroon`s anti-terrorism law, Reporters Without Borders website (18 December 2014).
Criticism of the new legislationThe new anti-terrorism law has become a matter of concern for some political leaders and civil society groups in the country and internationally. Joseph Banadzem, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), expressed concern that the government would use the law to suppress dissent and control the media. As it is now drafted, the new law would require journalists to submit articles to the government for approval before they are published. The SDF also suggests that the measures could increase law and order and tension. Banadzem added that while the opposition supports the fight against terrorism, it fears that the law will allow the government to criminalize opponents of the regime. At the demonstration of civil society groups in Yaoundé on the 5th. In December, he said: “The population is very irritated by this and they call us every day and say that if the president signs it, it could lead to public order.” (Peter Clottey, Cameroonian opposition `concerned` about anti-terrorism law, VOICE OF AMERICA (10 December 2014).) The administration further said many of the criticisms were “false claims” and compared the legislation to the U.S. Patriot Act, which was passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks. (The Cameroonian government clarifies its position on the new law on terrorist repression, see above; Patriot Act, Pub.
L. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001), Government Publishing Office website.) He also argued that the law is necessary to fulfill Cameroon`s obligations under the international treaties to which the nation has acceded. In particular, the Ministry of Communications suggested in a statement to the press that national legislation was needed to fulfill Cameroon`s counter-terrorism obligations as a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). (The Government of Cameroon clarifies its position on the new law on the fight against terrorism, see above; Information on the Community is available on the website of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC website (last visited on 17 December 2014). When Abba left the governor`s security meeting, two police officers arrested him. He was charged under Cameroon`s anti-terrorism law and, after nearly two years in prison, was found guilty by a military court of “failing to denounce terrorism” and “laundering the proceeds of terrorist acts.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.