Media organisations condemn conviction of Cameroonian journalist

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Press freedom organisations say they are concerned over the use of anti-terrorism legislation to clampdown on media freedom in Africa. This is as Cameroonian journalist Ahmed Abba faces a possible death penalty after being arrested and detained for over 600 days.

Abba is fighting terrorism charges related to his work covering the Boko-Haram insurgency in the region.

It’s been over 630 days since Radio France Internationale Correspondent Abba was detained in Cameroon. Abba was arrested at a function he had attended in his official capacity as a journalist. He was reportedly seized by law enforcement authorities, and has been held for over three months without access to his family, colleagues or lawyers in a Yaoundé jail.

In a strange development, Abba was only officially tried months later in a military court and charged with terrorism.

However, the charges relate to his journalism work – especially interviews he conducted with Boko Haram militants.

On April 20, Abba was convicted by a military court. Now press freedom organizations are calling for Abba’s release adding his arrest is a sign of diminishing press freedoms in Africa.

The Africa Editors Forum says this issue cannot be left unattended. In a statement the forum says it “condemns, in the strongest possible terms and with the contempt it deserves, the jail sentence and fine imposed on Cameroonian journalist Ahmed Abba by a military court in Yaounde”.

The notion supported by Angela Quintal member of the committee to protect journalists.

Other continental bodies have also added their voices to growing calls on the Cameroonian government to immediately halt the military court’s process and free him.

African Editors say they are deeply concerned that some governments on the continent are using the so-called war on terror to close down democratic spaces and launch assaults on media and other freedoms.

– By Sophie Mokoena