- Eric Motomu, publisher and editor of Cameroon's English-language tabloid 'The Chronicle' was beaten unconscious by the bodyguard and the driver of prominent opposition leader John Fru Ndi. While being beaten up at an opposition rally, the editor was told that his generally critical reporting of the opposition would not be accepted. Mr Fru Ndi had recently sued the editor for defamation.
Mr Motomu, who both edits and publishes 'The Chronicle', yesterday told New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he had been attacked on Friday. The editor was at a rally in the Cameroonian opposition stronghold of North-West Province, where he was attacked by the two men, who work for Social Democratic Front (SDF) leader John Fru Ndi. Mr Motomu said the bodyguard told him the SDF would not "tolerate" his articles about its leader.
Mr Motomu, who has interviewed opposition leader Fru Ndi many times, said he was treated at two local hospitals for head and chest injuries. He is recuperating at his home in the provincial capital, Bamenda. The editor said he had reported the attack to the police, but he was not aware of any official investigation.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Motomu said he had been summoned by police in Bamenda in connection with a defamation case brought against him by Mr Fru Ndi. The case stems from an article, reprinted in 'The Chronicle' after it was published in another local newspaper, listing Mr Fru Ndi as a "billionaire." Mr Motomu was told to report to police again on Tuesday, though he has not yet been formally charged, he said. Defamation is a criminal offence in Cameroon.
Local journalists told CPJ that 'The Chronicle' has run a recent series of very critical articles about Mr Fru Ndi. The opposition leader has been the main challenger of Cameroonian President Paul Biya in the last three elections, generally criticising the President for the general lack of democracy in Cameroon.
The SDF has experienced a crisis during the last year, as reported by the Cameroonian press in general, including 'The Chronicle'. Mr Fru Ndi during April has been fighting to prevent a split in the party, embarking on a campaign to talk to party supporters on 11 April. The SDF hopes to regain strength before the parliamentary and municipal elections in 2007.
The attacks on editor Motomu have caused protests internationally. The press freedom group CPJ today demanded action from Cameroonian authorities. "Nothing can justify this brutal attack on Eric Motomu," said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ, in a statement released today.
"We call on the authorities in Cameroon to investigate and prosecute this crime. If Mr Fru Ndi's bodyguard and driver are found responsible as Mr Motomu alleges, they should be punished in accordance with the law," Ms Cooper added.
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