Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, the main suspect in the brutal killing of a journalist, Martinez Zogo has spent his first night in a cell at the Secretariat of State for Defense in charge of the Gendarmerie better known by its French acronym, SED.
Mr. Amougou Belinga, the owner of Groupe l’Anecdote business empire that includes Banking institutions, Security, Construction as well as the Media was picked up at 5 am Monday by a squad of security forces armed to the teeth.
The arrest was confirmed by the head of the Communication Department of the Groupe l’Anecdote, Inès Belinga.
The release confirming the arrest stated that the businessman “is currently on the premises of the Secretary of State for Defense (in charge of the Gendarmerie, (editor’s note) as part of an investigation”.
The release also indicated that the General Manager of the Groupe l’Anecdote, journalist Bruno Bidjang, as well as retired Colonel, Thomas Raymond Etoundi Nsoé (Amougou Belinga’s father-in-Law who also runs his security company), were also arrested.
No reasons were given for the arrest, but the prevailing circumstances point to the killing of the journalist, Martinez Zogo, Director-General of an urban radio station Amplitude FM. He went missing on January 17, and his mutilated and decomposing body was found on January 22.
Amougou Belinga is only the latest in a wave of arrests that have taken place since the President of the Republic ordered an investigation.
Reporters Without Borders has cited a suspect as stating in a written confession that the killing of the journalist was a state crime. That testimony has roped in several high-profile personalities, including the head of Cameroon’s General Directorate for External Investigations (DGRE) Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, as well as the country’s Justice Minister, Laurent Eso.
Zogo’s Death Has Generated National and Global Condemnation
The National Union of Journalists of Cameroon said they were dismayed by the “heinous assassination” of their colleague.
The International Press Institute, a Vienna-based press freedom organization, has urged Cameroonian authorities to “promptly investigate the horrific murder of journalist Martinez Zogo and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
Jean-Michel Nintcheu, a lawmaker from the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) said in a press statement that it was “a crime’ that should never go unpunished.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay has also condemned the killing and called on the government “not to let this crime go unpunished. Journalists play an essential part in nurturing and upholding democratic governance. They deserve every necessary protection.”
And the head of Reporters Sans Frontiers, Sub Saharan Africa Desk, Sadibou Marong said there were “many grey areas regarding the circumstances of his brutal abduction.”
“The authorities must launch a rigorous, thorough and independent investigation to establish the full chain of responsibility and the circumstances that led to this sad event,” he said.
Cameroonian novelist Calixthe Beyala said she was “dejected, saddened. I knew he was dead as soon as it was announced he was being kidnapped. One can ask the question: whose turn it is? Each of us can find ourselves in this situation for something that we might have said.”
Zogo’s brutal murder thus casts a long shadow on the freedom of the press in Cameroon and adds to the growing number of attacks on journalists in the country.
In August 2019 for instance, journalist Samuel Wazizi was arrested by security forces in Buea in the restive former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons. After ten months without access to his lawyers or family, the authorities finally announced that he had died in detention. An investigation carried out by the military police has never been made public.
According to statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists,17 journalists have either been killed or imprisoned in Cameroon over the last ten years. The largest number of journalists being jailed took place in 2020 when 9 journalists were imprisoned.