Most of the journalists imprisoned in Africa are held on anti-state charges, and many are also held on false news and cybercrime allegations according to CPJ
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
It has been another record year for journalists jailed in Cameroon. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) annual census of jailed journalists found that the West African Nation continues to feature among the top three worse jailers of journalists on the continent.
Cameroon has appeared in the prison census every year since 2014. It is the second-worst jailer in Sub-Saharan Africa, with five arbitrarily detained under an opaque judicial system that includes the use of military tribunals to prosecute journalists, who are civilians under international law, according to CPJ.
Some of the notable journalists include Amadou Vamoulké, former Director General of the Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), arrested on July 29, 2016, Kingsley Fomunyuy Njoka, a freelance reporter detained on May 15, 2020, Mancho Bibixy of Abakwa FM, arrested on January 17, 2017, Thomas Awah Junior detained on January 2, 2017, and Tsi Conrad, freelance journalist arrested on December 8, 2016.
CPJ’s annual census of jailed journalists found that, as of December 1, 2022, there were 363 journalists behind bars, the highest number since CPJ began documenting this data 30 years ago. Iran topped CPJ’s list with at least 62 journalists imprisoned there—more than a third of them women.
“The prison census trends toward higher arrest rates of journalists, in tandem with creeping authoritarianism around the globe,” said Arlene Getz, CPJ editorial director. “Press freedom — essential to the preservation of democracy — is one of the first targets of regimes that seek to weaken or fully undermine democratic norms, so it is no surprise that as despots rise to power, journalists are increasingly under threat.”
“With the number of jailed journalists at an all-time high, journalist safety and press freedom are at great risk. Even high-profile cases of targeted journalists end in imprisonment more often than not, demonstrating that reporters globally continue to be suppressed,” Mr Getz said in a statement Wednesday.
On the African continent, Egypt remains the worse jailer of African journalists with 21 currently in prison. The country is followed by Eritrea with 16 journalists, Rwanda is fourth with 4 and Morocco with 3 in the fifth position. DRC has one journalist jailed while Algeria, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal have one each.
CPJ’s research and advocacy teams work to win the release of imprisoned journalists across the world, documenting detentions, reporting press freedom violations, and speaking with local authorities, family members, and high-level government officials. You and your support allow us to continue fighting on their behalf.
“We have journalists (in Iran) who are bearing witness, who are exposing (the protests), and who are critical in making sure there are records of the event,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna told U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America.