MRA Condemns Arrest and Detention of Journalist, Calls for his Unconditional Release


LAGOS: Monday, August 31, 2015: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned the arrest and continued detention of Nigeria-based Cameroonian journalist, Simon Ateba, by the Cameroonian authorities on allegations of espionage. MRA called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba, arrested by Cameroonian soldiers

Mr. Ateba, a Cameroonian who has worked as a journalist in Nigeria for over a decade, was arrested at about noon on August 29, 2015 at the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon and taken to Makolo, about 12 kilometres away in the far north of the country.

Ateba, who was at the camp to report on the conditions of refugees there, was accused of spying for the Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram. He said the authorities have informed him that he would be taken to Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, and handed over to the secret police which will try him for espionage. His trip to the refugee camp was a part of the Nigerian Investigative Reporting Project (NIRP), an initiative of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, MRA’s Executive Director, said:  “By resorting to such tactics, which are becoming increasingly evident in different countries, whereby governments and security agencies level ridiculous charges of espionage and supporting terrorism against journalists who write critical reports or investigate official wrongdoing, the governments are doing themselves a great disservice.  The governments must understand that while they may actually be successful in punishing the affected journalists, this ‘success’ comes at a great cost as the governments lose credibility every time they engage in this practice, the ultimate consequence being that they trivialize and undermine any legitimate effort they may be making to combat terrorism.”

Mr. Ojo therefore called for his immediate and unconditional release Mr. Ateba, adding that “the Government of Cameroon and its security agencies must allow him to carry out his work unhindered and ensure that they live up to their responsibility to protect him while he is within their territory.”