Reporters Without Borders (RSF) took part in an unprecedented press conference at the French national assembly today to demand the immediate release of Cameroonian journalist Amadou Vamoulké, the former head of state-owned Cameroon Radio & Television (CRTV), who has been held arbitrarily in Yaoundé for more than 30 months.
It was first time that the French national assembly has chaired a news conference to press calls for the release of Vamoulké, who is due to appear before a Special Criminal Court in Yaoundé on 1 March for the 17th hearing in a trial that began 18 months ago. Both RSF and several parliamentarians spoke at today's press conference.
A highly respected journalist, Vamoulké is being tried on absurd charges of misusing nearly 6 million euros public funds - funds that he actually spent wisely on CRTV while he ran it from 2005 to 2016.
Nine French parliamentarians from different parties wrote to President Emmanuel Macron and foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on 31 January urging them to use "their privileged diplomatic relations" to get Vamoulké freed and the charges dismissed as soon as possible.
In a reply on 5 February, the French foreign ministry noted that "the prosecution has not produced evidence of the appropriateness of its case," and said that the ministry would pay close attention to the conclusions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to which RSF referred the case on 16 January.
"After more than two and a half years of provisional detention, the arbitrary and political nature of this journalist's detention is beyond any doubt and the support for his release now reaches far beyond Cameroon's borders," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk.
"Our organization is determined to pursue and step up the campaign to bring this judicial conspiracy to an end. Amadou Vamoulké's peers are unanimous in praising him for his defence of ethical and independent journalism. He has no place being in prison."
The prosecution has produced no evidence to support the charges against Vamoulké at any of the 16 hearings so far held in the trial, most of which have lasted no more than a few minutes. A report published by RSF last December highlighted the managerial skills and support for editorial independence that Vamoulké displayed while running CRTV.
At today's press conference, parliamentarians Sébastien Nadot and Eric Coquerel said they planned to request a meeting with the office of the president and the foreign ministry to discuss Vamoulké's plight. They also said they did not rule out subsequently sending a parliamentary delegation to Cameroon.
Cameroon is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.