Cameroon – a Year After Murder of Journalist Martinez Zogo, IPI Reiterates Call for Justice

IPI says authorities must carry out credible, transparent, and independent investigations.

A year after the gruesome murder of journalist Martinez Zogo, authorities in Cameroon are yet to fully shed light on the circumstances surrounding his kidnapping, torture, and killing or hold any suspects to account.

Mr Zogo was kidnapped on 17 January 2023, in Yaoundé, and his body was found four days later, on 21 January.

Following Mr Zogo’s abduction and killing, authorities arrested several people, including two key suspects, Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, and Léopold Maxim Eko Eko. However, the military court in charge of the matter has yet to conclude its investigation.

One of the suspects, Amougou Belinga, is a businessman and media tycoon who owns the newspaper L’Anecdote and TV channels Vision 4 and Telesud while Maxim Eko Eko is the director of the state external intelligence service.

According to reports, in March last year, the duo was charged with torture and both have been accused of having played a role in the death of Zogo. On 1 December, a leaked military court document showed that a release order was allegedly signed by Justice Sikati II Kamo, ordering the pair’s release from continued detention. However, Mr Kamo denied the report as “false information”. A few days later, the judge was replaced by another magistrate.

As a result, in less than ten months, two judges working on the Martinez Zogo investigation have been removed and replaced by the authorities. This has not only derailed the investigation and the court proceedings but has raised concerns about interference by the authorities in the case, casting doubt on the independence of the judicial system in Cameroon.

Recently, reports said that another public official, Stéphane Martin Savom, mayor of Bibey municipality, in the centre of Cameroon, was summoned for interrogation in connection with the case.

The investigation into the murder of Mr Zogo is believed to hold considerable suspense, given the implication already of top public figures and close allies to rival political clans in the country.

“It is not yet clear who are the suspected masterminds behind the kidnapping, torture, and killing of journalist Martinez Zogo”, Alex Koko A Dang, chairman of the Union of Cameroon Independent Journalists (SYNAJIC), told IPI. “Investigations are ongoing, and justice has not yet been rendered to our colleague. The Martinez Zogo affair seems to be a movie whose only actors are the authorities in Cameroon.”

Before his death, Mr Zogo was the director of the privately owned radio Amplitude FM based in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. He hosted a programme called “Embouteillage” (equivalent to “Gridlock” in English) which denounced governance malpractices, acts of corruption, and alleged embezzlement of public funds by top officials.

On the anniversary of Mr Zogo’s killing, IPI calls on authorities to speed up their investigation.

“A year has elapsed since the kidnapping and killing of Martinez Zogo, and despite the arrest of some suspects, justice is yet to be served and numerous questions remain”, IPI Advocacy Director Amy Brouillette said, “If authorities in Cameroon believe the international community will forget this case, they are wrong.”

She added: “Authorities must guarantee an independent, transparent, and thorough investigation into Martinez’s murder and ensure that the judicial system is free to work independently to unearth the truth, serve justice, and hold the perpetrators of this horrific crime to account. Failure to credibly solve this case will only further endanger the safety of journalists in Cameroon.”

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