12 December 2012

Cameroon: In Cameroon, Journalist Threatened With Defamation Charge

Abuja — A state prosecutor in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon has threatened to file defamation charges against an editor if he does not reveal his sources for a series of articles, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to immediately stop the harassment against Aaron Kah and allow him to report freely.

Police arrested Kah, editor of the newly launched bimonthly Kilum 24, on Friday after the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board, a missionary-run health institution in Bamenda, filed a complaint against him. The complaint was based on articles Kah had published in Kilum 24 in October and November that questioned the hiring and personnel practices of the management of the Board, according to news reports.

Kah, who was released on bail on Monday, told CPJ that he had been summoned twice by the state prosecutor who demanded that he reveal his sources for the stories. Kah said he refused, but said he would publish a rebuttal by the Baptist Board instead. The journalist also said that the state prosecutor had told him that he had until December 28 to reveal his sources or he would be re-arrested and charged with defamation.

Local journalists told CPJ that the board had not publicly rebutted the allegations in Kah's paper. Pius Tih, the board's director, did not immediately return CPJ's calls for comment. Godwin Ncham, general secretary of the organization, refused to confirm or deny the allegations and said that Tih was out of the country.

"We condemn the intimidation, arrest, and threat of criminal prosecution of Aaron Kah as a means to force him to reveal sources of his reporting," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "We invite the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board to exercise its right of reply or seek redress in civil court. Kah should not be jailed for raising critical questions about the management of a public institution."

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