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Cameroon7 September 2006

Editor released after being held by military security for five days

Duke Atangana Etotogo, the managing editor of the privately-owned monthly L’Afrique Centrale, was released this afternoon after writing a letter of apology to the president and the defence minister, one of his close friends, Venant Mboua, told Reporters Without Borders.

Etotogo, who had been held by military security since 3 September, pointed out in his letter that, while regretting having caused offence to certain military officers, he did not retract the report which led to his arrest.

06.09.2006 - Editor held for three days by military security

Reporters Without Borders is astounded at the actions of Cameroon’s military security which has been secretly holding Duke Atangana Etotogo managing editor of the new privately-owned monthly L’Afrique centrale for the past three days.

He was arrested on 3 September 2006 after publishing articles exposing corruption and inefficiency in the army.

The editor was held after arriving at an “informal meeting” organised by a friend, Venant Mboua, editor of the privately-owned monthly Cahiers de Mutations. The meeting had been called on the initiative of Lieut-Col Gédéon Yossa, who said he wanted to discuss the content of an article with Etotogo. On arrival at the agreed meeting place, the two journalists were invited to continue the discussion at Military Security (SEMIL) in Yaoundé. Etotogo was then held against his will, while Mboua was asked to leave.

"Is it really necessary to remind the Cameroon army that the media cannot be regulated at gunpoint?” the press freedom organisation asked. “The behaviour of the military in this case is unacceptable.”

“Whatever their complaints against this journalist, he should be released immediately. The government cannot at the same time demand respect for ethical rules on the part of the press and allow the army to assume the right to dispense justice on the pretext that the newspaper broke a taboo,” it said.

Secretary-General of the Cameroon National Journalists’ Union (SNJC) Jean-Marc Soboth, said the journalist was apparently questioned about his sources within the national defence ministry as well as on the funding of his paper. Two days after his arrest, soldiers summoned and questioned his sister for several hours.

The journalist, who suffers from malaria, has not been allowed access to a lawyer and his telephone has been seized. Members of his family, who came to bring him food, were denied permission to see him. He was moved, on 6 September, to the secretariat of state for defence (SED).

Etotogo, formerly editor of the weekly Nouvelle presse and of La Météo, both papers with a tendency to carry provocative articles, had just launched the new monthly L’Afrique centrale. A file on corruption and poor management within the army appeared in its first edition, on 28 August. It quoted unnamed sources in a close analysis of several examples of the management of defence minister, Rémy Ze Meka.

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