Friends and colleagues of detained journalist, Simon Ateba today in Lagos have held a press briefing to clamour for the release of their colleague.
Journalists under the aegis of #FREESIMONATEBA Coalition, converged on the International Press Centre, Ogba, Lagos, in an impromptu press conference to express their displeasure over Ateba’s detention in Cameroun.
In a release made available to dayoemmanuel.wordpress.com, leader of the group, Ayodele Samuel, said, “We friends and colleagues of Simeon Ateba are here to express our displeasure over the inhumane and unjustifiable arrest and detention of one of us by the Cameroonian military authority. Today we have an issue that calls for serious concern among us journalists and all global citizens.”
Ateba, a Cameroonian and Lagos-based journalist has practiced journalism in Nigeria for over a decade, was arrested on Friday August 28 at the Minawao refugee camp and taken to Makolo in the far north of Cameroon.
Ateba, a blogger and investigative journalist, who was last contacted on Saturday, August 30, was in Cameroon on a reporting mission funded by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR. He was in the Central African nation on investigations into plights of Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram militants in the country.
The group also stated that, “He (Ateba) had entered the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) camps alongside other 5,000 Nigerians, when he was arrested and accused of spying for the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency group.”
“Since then, Simon Ateba has been denied access to food, water and medication to treat a feverish condition that had developed after he was drenched by rain, also his whereabouts cannot be ascertained in Cameroon. The Cameroonian military is known for being hostile to Journalists, even local journalists in the country had complained of the army hostility.”
Alleging inhuman treatment of journalists by Cameroonian military in recent times, the group recalled that, “Local journalists suffer repression in the hands of the Cameroonian military authorities, journalists in Cameroon have been dragged to military tribunals in the past for possessing information that the authorities think they should have shared with the government. This has raised our fears for Simon Ateba’s safety in the custody of the Cameroonian army.”
The coalition further alleged Cameroonian authorities. “It is a gross shame that despite per minute’s condemnation of this mindless detention by various organisations in both social and traditional media, the Cameroonian government has refused to free Simon.”
According to the Cameroon Journalists Union (CJU), President, Charles Ndi Chia, there is no law in the country which forbids any journalist from reporting the refugee camps.
Faulting Ateba’s arrest, the group stated that “The military authorities in the country have no right to make any arrest for going into the refugee camps since the facility is controlled and run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, and not the government. To us, this an attack on Press Freedom by the Cameroonian army and its government. The world deserves to know whatever is happening in the war against terrorism, what is the Cameroonian army hiding?”
Promising to advance the battle for the release of their colleague, the group vowed that, “As journalists, we will continue to resist all attempts to suppress our freedom anywhere in the world. We consider the Cameroonian army action as a case of arbitrary arrest and detention, because the army lacks likelihood and evidence that he committed the crime he was accused of, the shameful action also has no proper due process of law.”
“Article 9 of UN universal declaration of human right which stipulates that: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, the Cameroonian government should respect this and also honour Press freedom at this moment. Considering the contributions and sacrifices of journalists, both local, international and social media savvy citizens have made towards the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in Sub Saharan Africa.”
Concluding, the coalition however calls for Ateba’s release, it made its demand clear. “We demand the immediate release of the journalist within 24 hours, hence we will commence a mass action and litigation against the Cameroonian government and its military authorities using every tools at our disposal. We also call on the Commander of the Joint Military Taskforce to immediately setup a probe panel into the unlawful detention of this harmless journalist. Journalism is not a crime!” the coalition demands.
*Story by Dayo Emmanuel