Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi, who was arrested in August 2019 for criticising Yaoundé‘s handling of Cameroon’s anglophone crisis, has died in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said, calling on the authorities to shed full light on the circumstances of his death.
RSF confirmed his death in a statement on Wednesday evening, after a privately-owned Cameroonian TV station and then the National Union of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC) announced his death on Tuesday.
Neither the government nor the army had yet confirmed the journalist’s death, or reacted to requests from RSF, the SNJC and several human rights organisations, according to these organisations.
Contacted directly by AFP, the authorities had not yet responded on Thursday morning.
Samuel Wazizi, a presenter on the regional television station Chillen Media Television, was arrested on 2 August 2019 in Buea, the capital of the English-speaking Southwest region, according to RSF.
He was accused of “having made critical comments on his channel with regard to the authorities’ management of the crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions,” RSF added in its press release.
For nearly three years, separatist groups and the army have been fighting each other in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon, where most of the English-speaking minority, who consider themselves marginalised, live. Some of these groups have taken up arms against Yaoundé and are calling for the independence of this territory.
The fighting, but also the atrocities and murders committed against civilians by both sides, have caused more than 3,000 deaths and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
Five days after his arrest in August, the journalist was “picked up” by soldiers, RSF said. He was never brought before a court, his lawyer Lyonga Ewule told AFP, and was “held incommunicado” “outside of any legal procedure”, according to RSF.
The journalist was “ill” and reportedly “died during his transfer to Yaoundé on an unknown date”, according to a “senior military official very close to the case” quoted by RSF. His lawyer and the SNJC claim that he was tortured while in detention.
His body arrived at the morgue on Monday “under heavy escort”, according to a source at the Yaoundé military hospital also quoted by RSF.
“We call on the authorities to break the intolerable silence surrounding this case (…) and to conduct a serious and independent investigation to establish the circumstances that led to this tragic event,” said Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s Africa office.