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A year on, colleagues remember slain Cameroon journalist

By Romuald NKONLAK
Cameroon Mourners place candles before a portrait of Cameroon journalist Martinez Zogo, after his abduction and killing a year ago.  By Daniel Beloumou Olomo (AFP/File)
MON, 22 JAN 2024 LISTEN
Mourners place candles before a portrait of Cameroon journalist Martinez Zogo, after his abduction and killing a year ago. By Daniel Beloumou Olomo (AFP/File)

Thick layers of melted wax from candles and flowers bore silent tribute Monday as colleagues marked a year since the discovery of the mutilated body of an abducted Cameroon reporter.

Co-workers of Martinez Zogo created the shrine to the journalist, who dared to speak out against corruption and cronyism before his abduction and brutal murder last January.

The Amplitude FM station owner and reporter's body, bearing evident marks of torture, was found exactly a year ago after a killing suspected to have been at the hands of an intelligence commando group.

Zogo carved out a reputation as presenter of popular daily programme Embouteillage (Gridlock), which exposed alleged embezzlement in the government and didn't shy away from naming some top officials.

Friends and colleagues spoke Monday of a climate of fear. The shrine to Zogo featured a large photo of him with his index finger posed squarely over his lips -- a visual warning to journalists of the danger of speaking out.

"Before, I had the courage to speak. Now, I think carefully before writing," whispered Marie-Noel Djamen, a journalist at the station who says she considered resigning after Zogo's death.

Mourning

"This shrine reminds us every day we are still in mourning," sighed Elise Domche Woudje, the radio station's director general.

Human Rights Watch says freedom of expression continues to be restricted in Cameroon, noting three independent journalists were killed in the central African nation last year.

International NGOs say the regime of President Paul Biya, 90, who has ruled with an iron fist for more than 41 years, routinely curtails opposition.

"The wound is still very raw. We are still trying to understand what could have motivated these men to inflict such torture," Yannick Yamedjeu, an Amplitude FM journalist said.

Zogo's naked and battered body was found in a Yaounde suburb some 20 kilometres (12 miles) across town, five days after his January 17, 2023 abduction outside a police station.

Though there have been 16 arrests, many Cameroonians fear justice may never be done in a country ranked by Reporters Without Borders as 118th out of 180 for press freedom.

Zogo's body remains at the morgue, pending potential further autopsies, according to Woudje.

Powerful businessman

The 16 in detention include members of the powerful DGRE government intelligence.

The judiciary says they confessed to abducting and torturing Zogo but deny killing him.

The group includes a lieutenant-colonel, Justin Danwe, who says he led the team, and his boss Leopold Maxime Eko Eko, DGRE director general, who denies any wrongdoing.

Another detainee is rich and powerful businessman and media mogul Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, who is close to the government and was regularly in Zogo's critical sights.

Cameroonian journalists fear that with the case in the hands of military judges, justice may never be done.

"A year on, we know nothing of the investigation," Charly Tchouemou, the station's chief editor, told AFP.

Staff took Monday off in a mark of respect, amid frustration over a lack of progress in the inquiry.

"Why, when the police have all the means to discover the truth," Yamedjeu said.

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