Paul Chouta, an independent journalist and a fierce critic of President Paul Biya’s government in Cameroon, has been detained without trial for more than 600 days – his case having been postponed 16 times. So far, the courts have failed to provide credible reasons as to why they continue to detain him and infringe on his right to freedom from arbitrary detention.
The journey leading to the arrest of the journalist who runs an online news platform, Cameroon Web, and manages a famous Facebook page called Le TGV de l’info, has been long and painful. At one time, Chouta was attacked, beaten and stabbed near his house by unknown people. In 2019, he was detained for what police called publishing defamatory content and fake news. He has been vocal in criticising the government and has written extensively on corruption and police abuse.
Freedom of speech is sacrosanct. As media freedom continues to thin in Cameroon, with journalists being detained without trial, taken to court on frivolous charges, threatened, beaten and even murdered, the international community must amplify the call to the Cameroon government to respect and allow journalists to do their work without fear or favour.
Both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have clearly spelled out the right to freedom of expression, and Paul and thousands of other Cameroon journalists must be allowed to unequivocally enjoy that right. The world should demand the immediate release of Paul.