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Cameroon20 February 2008

Two newspaper journalists freed after being held for five days

Jean-Bosco Talla, the deputy editor of the privately-owned weekly Le Front, and Hervé Kémété, a trainee journalist, were released on 15 February after being held for five days. They were arrested on 10 February in the southern town of Zoétélé while investigating the property owned there by several senior politicians.

In a report on their arrest in Le Front, Talla said he is due to appear in court tomorrow on a charge of trespassing on property owned by former finance minister Polycarpe Abah Abah.

15.02.08 - Two journalists held incommunicado after trying to photograph homes of top politicians

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of Jean-Bosco Talla, the deputy editor of the privately-owned weekly Le Front, and one of his reporters, Hervé Kémété. They have been held incommunicado since being arrested on 10 February in the southern town of Zoétélé, to which they had gone to photograph the property owned there by several senior officials and politicians including the defence minister.

“We do not understand why the authorities need to hide these journalists away,” the press freedom organisation said. “There are appropriate and fair mechanisms when there is a dispute about a newspaper’s content. The arrests of these two journalists, their concealed transfers from one location to another, the hunt of other members of the newspaper’s staff and the overall lack of transparency surrounding this case are very disturbing and we have a right to demand an explanation from the government.”

Gendarmes arrested Talla and Kémété while they were trying to photograph the homes of defence minister Rémy Ze Meka, former finance minister Polycarpe Abah Abah and Alain Edgar Mebe Ngo’o, the head of the police criminal investigation department, who are all from Zoétélé.

Le Front founder and editor Peter William Mandio told Reporters Without Borders they wanted to do a story on the property owned in the south of the country by several of President Paul Biya’s close political associates.

After being held for 48 hours at the headquarters of the gendarmerie in Zoétélé, Talla and Kémété were taken before the town’s state prosecutor at around 5 p.m. on 12 February. They were then transferred to the port police station in the capital, Douala, where they were held for the next two days. It is not known where they are currently being held or if they have been charged.

Mandio meanwhile avoided arrest when police came to his home last night, as he was absent. Le Front’s staff are now all in hiding. The authorities have not given any explanation for the arrest of Talla and Kémété.

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