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Radio France Internationale correspondent in Cameroon held over a month, denied access to lawyer

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 8 September 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the detention of a Nigerian journalist who has been held for more than a month in Cameroon and denied access to his lawyer for two weeks. CPJ also calls on Cameroonian authorities to explain the reason for Ahmed Abba's detention and allow him immediate access to his lawyer.

Abba, a Nigerian national and a correspondent for Radio France Internationale's Hausa service, was arrested by Cameroonian officials in Maroua, the capital of the Far North Region, of Cameroon on July 30, according to a report by RFI. He was taken to the capital, Yaoundé, where he has been held for questioning. The journalist has been denied access to his lawyer for the past two weeks, the report said. It is unclear if he has been charged.

Dennis Nkwebo, president of the Cameroon Journalism Trade Union, told CPJ that Abba has lived in northern Cameroon for some time. He said the day Abba was arrested he had gone to a meeting at the office of a local governor. The reason for Abba's visit to the governor was not clear.

According to the RFI report citing the journalist's lawyer, Charles Tchoungang, Abba was being interrogated in relation to activities of the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has renamed itself the Islamic State in West Africa.

"Cameroonian authorities should provide an explanation for Ahmed Abba's detention and allow him access to his lawyer immediately," said Sue Valentine, CPJ's Africa program coordinator. "We urge Cameroon to ensure that journalists are not targeted for merely reporting on dangerous groups."

Formed in 2002, Boko Haram, which is based in northern Nigeria, has been increasing its presence in northern Cameroon since 2014, according to reports. The group has become notorious for mass kidnappings and targeted attacks on civilians, reports said.

"At the moment, [Abba] is being held incommunicado and is under investigation by the organization responsible under the state of war Cameroon is experiencing today," his lawyer, Tchoungang said, according to news reports.

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