By M.V.A in Bafoussam

Thursday July 12, 2018 has gone into Cameroon media history books as the day some nine English Speaking Journalists spent a night in police detention in the West regional Head Quarters; Bafoussam.  
Though the incident occurred in the later part of the evening of that faithful day, the social media in no distant time took the information to almost every part of the world. Before the journalists could spend the first hour in detention, phone calls came from all parts of the world with Journalists Protection Institutions practically taking the lead.

How it happened
It was a group of happy United Nations UN Officials and Journalists who had ended a four day workshop sponsored by the UN system in Cameroon and Central Africa who decided to step out of their hotel rooms for some recreation. After spending a short time in a popular joint in quartier Tamja where some people ate, the group decided to change the location to where they could dance and make merry. The Disc Jockey DJ at the spot will help them do so with lots of English music and most of them from the Northwest or connected to the region with hit songs like Bamenda by late Kotobass, Foin-te-Foin by Pastor Bagha’ah plus some bottle dance. They will have some fun before tragedy will strike those who decided to stay a little longer as some uniform will came visiting though they will not arrest anyone inside the popular joint. 



Jato Richard Tonga reporter for Radio Hotcocoa Bamenda is first victim. As he stepped out of the spot for some personal reasons, he is immediately apprehended and ordered to sit on the ground. “As I stood outside a security officer just walked to me and ordered me to sit down and I did. He now went on to hold other men who were there asking them to sit down with me.” Jato said
As the journalists left the spot, they were all seized as they stepped out of the joint. As they took us away, I decided to call Jato to inform him that we have been arrested and he answered from the arrested crowd.” Ambe MacMillan another arrested journalist from Bamenda said. They were then identified and a list made as they got to the station. 

In darkness they were taken to the Bafoussam Central Police where they were ordered to sit on the ground where they will eventually spend the night. As the journalists continued conversations in English and pidgin while in detention, Fawah Agather another arrested journalists confirms; “one of the persons arrested with us said it is because of this your pidgin that we are here.”
Contacts made with UN officials failed to yield fruits that night as the police officers simple told them to go and come back the following day stating that nothing could happen that night to have them released. In the meantime, messages went wild on social media with many condemning and demanding the immediate release of the journalists. 

How they were released
Just short after 5am Friday morning, the Commissioner of the Station arrived. Hardly will he come to work that early but then he had only one request to make to his subordinates on duty that is; let the UN Journalists go. They were then checked out of detention by name ticking. “No reason was given for our arrest.” Ambe McMillan said

A statement on the arrest by the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union CJTU North West Chapter condemned the arrest citing all those arrested stating “We condemn the arrest of journalists in Bafoussam on Thursday July 12 2018 who were attending a UN sponsored seminar on elections reporting. The concerned are Mokun Njouny Nelson, Fawah Agather, Jato Richard Tonga, Ambe Macmillan, Sama Eileen all practicing in the North West region. Frida Voma, Nyambot Divine and Lucy Besong practicing in the South West region together with Yuh Timchia journalist and employee of the National Communication Council NCC based in Yaoundé. This is another indicator of repeated attacks on media freedom to be added to the series of abuses and violations against the media in Cameroon.” 

Confirming their release on Friday morning CJTU states “Though they were released early Friday morning without any reason for the arrest, CJTU NW calls on anyone in Cameroon undermining the role of journalists to stop these aggressions on media practitioners who locally are defenseless and allow them to do their work freely.” 

Derick BAKAH

Derick BAKAH

Bakah Derick is a Broadcast Presenter and Multimedia specialist with focus on sharing with the rest of the world the daily happenings in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. You can contact us on +237 675460750 or debakah2004@gmail.com.

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