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Journalist dies in detention

Two Cameroonian journalists watched a colleague die in prison on 22 April. All three journalists were incarcerated in March for investigating corruption involving a top presidential aide and a state-run oil company, report Journaliste en Danger (JED), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Journalist Germain S. Ngota Ngota, known as Bibi, suffered from high blood pressure and a hernia; he died after being denied medical treatment. Editor of the "Cameroon Express" newspaper, Ngota is the first Cameroonian journalist to lose his life connected to his work, reports CPJ.

Editors Serge Sabouang and Robert Mintya remain in prison and are also extremely frail, physically and psychologically. All three editors were thrown into a cell with hard-core felons, and no beds or sanitary facilities. They were accused of jointly forging a document with the signature of presidential aide Laurent Esso. The document allegedly implicates Esso, who is also chairman of the state-run National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH), in secret payouts to company managers.

Reporter Simon Hervé Nko'o of the weekly "Bebela", who was also imprisoned, says the journalists were tortured to reveal sources. Nko'o, the alleged author of the forgery, has gone into hiding since his release, reports RSF.

Ngota's death is connected to increasing harassment and abuse of journalists by security forces and the use of criminal legislation against independent media. IFJ has called on President Paul Biya to stop the arbitrary arrests and torture of journalists. In March, CPJ wrote to the President about the abuse of at least 12 Cameroonian journalists who covered corruption and government affairs.

In fact, any kind of dissent has been punished. Lapiro de Mbanga (real name: Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), a singer-songwriter, outspoken critic of the government and an opposition party member, has been in jail for more than two years for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots, reports the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN.

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    Lapiro de Mbanga's appeal is still pending before the Supreme Court following numerous delays.

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