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Cameroon6 August 2003

A journalist imprisoned one year after being sentenced in absentia

On 5 August 2003, the Yaounde National Police arrested Rémy Ngono, who hosted a satirical programme on Radio Télévision Siantou (RTS), and jailed him in Kondengui central prison. Ngono’s incarceration follows a year-old court ruling against the journalist. He had been sentenced in absentia to six months’ imprisonment with no parole for "defamation".

"We are appalled that Rémy Ngono was not afforded the opportunity to defend himself before the court, since he was not in the courtroom during his trial. We urge you to see to it that the journalist is given a new trial, in accordance with international norms," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to Justice Minister Amadou Ali. "Moreover, full light must be shed on the circumstances surrounding the journalist’s absence from his trial, as it appears Rémy Ngono was not notified, or at the very least was not notified within a reasonable timeframe, that a complaint had been filed against him," the organisation insisted.

Reporters Without Borders also noted Cameroonian law’s stipulation that following the filing of a complaint, journalists are given up to five days to serve documents when accused of press law violations. The provision was not respected in this case.

"Rémy Ngono’s only mistake was to talk about the accusations against businessman Ketch Jean in a mocking fashion. It is unfortunate that Jean was unable to show a sense of humour," the organisation added.

Ngono hosted "Kondré chaud" ("Hot Kondré"), a very popular satirical programme. In July 2002, while on the air, he discussed accusations of embezzlement against Jean by one of his former business partners, Nyami Dieudonné. On 7 July 2002, he was sentenced in absentia to six months’ imprisonment with no parole. The on air host was only informed of his sentence on 24 July 2003, over one year after the ruling. He was imprisoned the following week.

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