Atia Tilarious and Amos Fofung of The Sun and The Guardian Post newspapers respectively, have been arrested alongside Mofor Ndong, publisher of the little-known tabloid, Voice of the Voiceless. They were arrested in the late hours of Thursday February 9 in Buea.
Reports say the said publisher is alleged to have travelled to Buea with protest flyers from Bamenda. He supposedly stopped over at Fofung’s residence in Molyko, Buea and later took off for Mile 17 where a police commissioner who had been trailing him, took him unawares. Our source said the publisher of Voice of the Voiceless told the police he had stopped over at Fofung’s home with the supposed bag of tracts.
Security forces stormed Fofung’s residence and arrested him alongside Atia who was there on a visit. They were taken to the Molyko police station in Buea.
Reports say Mofor was caught with a bag of pro-secessionist tracts, fire-crackers, and teargas cannisters, while Fofung is indicted of keeping him in his house. Atia for his part is being detained for having strike-related messages in his phone. Mofor, we gathered, told police officers that Atia and Amos were unaware that he (Mofor) had tracts in his bag.
The arrest of the trio brings to six the number of journalists who have been apprehended by security forces in relation to the ongoing protests in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
Tim Finnian, Publisher of Lifetime newspaper was arrested in Bamenda earlier in January. Sources say he was brutally caught by plain clothes security officers without a warrant. He was transferred overnight to the gendarmerie headquarters in Yaounde where he has been detained since then. Tim is said to have been arrested for publishing sensitive information regarding security forces clampdown on protesters in Bamenda which have led to several deaths. Another publisher, Thomas Awah Junior was earlier arrested in Bamenda and ferried to Yaounde. He is still gnashing his teeth in the dreadful Kondengui maximum security prison.
BBC’s Randy Joe Sa’ah was equally arrested at the military tribunal in Yaounde on February 3. He was there to cover the trial of Barrister Felix Kongho, AKA Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy, aka BBC, leaders of the protests who had been arrested and charged with rebellion, terrorism and eight other counts.
Randy Joe was arrested for recording a statement the leaders of the detainee’s 70-man strong counsel were making to press. He was told only the state-run media were authorised to take pictures and record interviews on the court premises. Randy Joe was however released on bail same day, while gendarmerie officers retained his memory card for investigation purposes.
Simon Lyonga, National President of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalist, CAMSEJ, in a statement condemned the arrest of journalist reporting on the ongoing crisis and requested the unconditional release of those still in detention.
The National Communication Council has been criticised for dishing out warnings to newsrooms perceived to be sympathetic to the protesters who are decrying what they describe as a protracted marginalisation.
The protest which was initiated by teachers, lawyers and activist BBC, is now run from abroad by the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium which was outlawed on January 17, 2017. It was banned alongside separatists Southern Cameroon National Council, SCNC.